Everyone loves a good bone-in ham. Few things can match the taste or texture of succulent ham, and that is what makes it such a classic. If you are looking for the best way to prepare a ham, consider smoking it. The process of smoking not only protects the outside of your meat but also keeps in all the juices. This helps give the meat a distinctive and memorable flavor that will enhance your dining experience.
The method for preparing bone-in ham is no different from preparing other smoked meats. However, there are some things you can do to make your smoked ham preparation more successful.
The key to a great-tasting smoked ham is in the preparation. Although your choice of wood for smoking will affect the flavor, it pales in comparison to how you treat that ham before and during the smoking process.
Get a high-quality cut of meat
Bone-in ham is a type of smoked ham that’s made in the shape of its bone. The meat itself comes from any number of different parts of the pig, though one specific cut will vary by region. Because it’s so versatile, this cut can be used to make almost any dish you want after smoking it.
Purchase a quality ham. While this may seem obvious, many people make the mistake of purchasing a ham that is not up to their quality specifications. The reason for smoking your own meat in the first place is because you want it to taste delicious, and only the best will do.
First, when you purchase your ham, do it at the deli counter or in the meat section. You don’t want it pre-sliced at the grocery store just because it’s easier for you to buy that way; what you’re looking for is a bone-in ham that still has the skin on it. The better the quality of the meat, the better your final product will be.
Trim off any excess fat
The next step is to trim off any excess fat around the outside of the ham. This will help reduce the amount of fat that’s rendered during the smoking process, and it will also help your ham to cook more evenly.
Soak the ham in brine overnight
Once you’ve trimmed your ham, it’s time to cure it. Salt is often used as a preservative, and it will also help your ham develop that smokey flavor you’re looking for. You can either sprinkle the salt onto the outside of the ham before smoking or use brine to soak your meat overnight if desired.
Cure your ham properly. Curing also extends shelf life so you can eat your ham long after it’s cooked.
Smoking Temperatures and Times
The most important part of smoking bone-in ham is flavor. You want the meat to be moist and juicy, but you also want it to taste like smoked ham. This will take time and effort on your end, but the reward is worth it.
If you want your ham slices very crunchy, then you’ll need to cook it at a higher temperature. If you’re looking for a leaner ham with less fat, then you’ll need to cook it for longer over lower heat.
The ideal smoking temperature for bone-in ham is between 225–250 °F (107–121 °C). If your smoker runs hotter or cooler than this, you will need to adjust the cooking time. Smoking at a lower temperature will result in a longer cook time, while smoking at a higher temperature will shorten the cooking time.
Smoking at a temperature between 225–250 °F (107–212 °C) will result in the most flavorful and juicy bone-in ham, as this range is best for allowing fat to render and drip off of the meat as it cooks.
Due to its higher moisture content, you need to be careful when smoking this cut of meat. If left in the smoker for too long, it will dry out and crumble.
While you can’t determine exactly how long this cut of meat will take to smoke, you can use the calculation of around 20 minutes per pound. That can end up in 5–10 hours of smoking, depending on the size of your ham and the temperature of your smoker.
Make sure to allow yourself plenty of time to smoke your ham. This is not a meal that can be whipped up in a hurry.
Have a good meat thermometer on hand throughout the smoking process. You want to smoke your ham until it reaches an internal temperature of 140 °F (60 °C) before removing the meat from the smoker.
Allow your ham to rest for about 25 minutes after you have removed it from the smoker so all juices can be reabsorbed into the meat.
Smoking at a lower temperature will result in a longer cook time, while smoking at a higher temperature will shorten the cooking time. However, as with all meats, low and slow is guaranteed to give you the most flavorful ham.
For more great ideas on how to get the most out of your Bradley Smoker, check out the awesome articles on our Bradley Smoker Food Smoking Blog for more tips & tricks.