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How to Master Smoked Ham

How to Master Smoked Ham

A smoked ham is a culinary favorite, and graces many holiday tables for good reason. When you choose to go through the process of smoking ham on a pellet grill, this delicious meat goes from a classic, to a work of art.

Tinged pink from curing, the meat—a cut from the hind leg of a pig—has been brined and smoked to create that telltale sweet, smoky, and slightly salty flavor we all love. For how to choose a smoked ham—whole? half? bone-in? spiral cut?—check out our ham guide. For how to smoke (or in most cases, double smoke) a ham, read on.

HOW TO “DOUBLE” SMOKE A HAM

When preparing a ham for the holidays, most of us will choose a ham that has already been cured and smoked aka a “city” ham. Technically, this ham can be eaten right out of the package. However, it’s much more pleasant to eat when reheated. One of the best ways to reheat it is by smoking a ham on a pellet grill. Sometimes called double smoking, reheating a ham on the Traeger intensifies its smoky flavor while the gentle heat keeps it moist and tender.

For the best results, reheat the ham low and slow, setting the Traeger no higher than 325°F (and lower if you want more smoke flavor). Want to learn how long to smoke a ham for? The time it will take to reach the optimal temperature of between 140°F and 145°F will vary depending on its size—anywhere from 1 1/2 to 4 hours—so be sure to insert a leave-in meat thermometer, such as a MEATER to track its progress. For an estimate, consider 10 to 15 minutes per pound of ham. To keep the ham moist, cover it in foil for part of the reheating and/or add some liquid, such as broth apple cider, or a mix, to the pan and baste the ham while it cooks.

Consider sweeter woods when double-smoking a ham. Because the ham already has some smoky flavor—more or less depending on the ham—you don’t want to overdo it on the smoke when reheating. Skip the mesquite and go for one of our “sweeter” more gentle options, such as cherry, apple, or pecan. To learn more about your pellet options, look here.

Glaze your ham—or not. Glazing a ham is not necessary, but it does add an extra layer of flavor, usually sweet, and a lovely shine. If you plan to glaze your ham, do it during the last half hour or so of cooking, when the ham has reached about 130°F. You can use your own glaze or save a step and simply brush on a delicious Traeger glaze.

Let the ham rest before carving. Though the timing can vary, keep in mind that ham is very flexible and does not have to be piping hot to be delicious. Plus, if your ham is done sooner than expected, know it benefits from a rest of at least 30 minutes and can sit at room temperature for up to 2 hours before serving.

HOW A FRESH HAM IS SMOKED

A fresh ham, sometimes called a green ham, is the ham cut of pork but raw, meaning uncured and unsmoked. If you ever want to smoke and cure a ham yourself—and we recommend following a recipe from a trusted source as the curing process can be tricky—you need to be sure this is the cut you get from the butcher as it’s not common to find fresh ham at the supermarket. (Sidenote: A fresh ham is also delicious roasted.) A fresh ham is not a “picnic” ham, which, despite its confusing name, is not a ham at all. Like its already-cooked counterpart (known as a city ham) a fresh ham may come whole, which will feed at least 20 people or a half.

Before being smoked, the fresh ham is cured.

Curing, similar to brining—the act of soaking meat in a salty liquid to preserve it—makes meats juicy and adds flavor. But curing takes the process a step further and usually infers nitrite and/or nitrate has been added for the purposes of preservation, flavor, and that pink color we associate with the holiday ham. It also can refer to the smoking of the meat, and all of it, the curing and the smoking, was initially a way to keep bacteria at bay but is now done simply for flavor and texture.

In general, the brine solution, which usually includes sugar as well as regular salt and curing salt plus aromatic flavorings like garlic and herbs, is mixed and heated to ensure the sugar and salt dissolve. The liquid is then cooled and poured over the ham to completely submerge it. The length of time a ham is cured for can vary widely, but a general rule is about 1 day per pound of ham, and some butchers will go for as long as 30 days.

How long to smoke a ham when it's fresh?

Though the actual temperature may range, a fresh ham is generally smoked low and slow, generally from 225°F to 325°F, in order to keep that big hunk of meat tender. Its internal temperature needs to reach at least 145°F, and that can take from 5 to 10 hours depending on the size of the ham and the cooking temperature.

WHAT TO SERVE WITH SMOKED HAM

Smoked ham is truly a delicacy, with no wrong way to get it on the table. A creamy potato gratin is a classic pairing since it balance the salty and savory flavor of the meat. Similarly, macaroni and cheese is always welcome alongside ham. Other tasty options include creamed spinach, glazed carrots, and buttery green beans.

If you have any leftovers, you can use smoked ham (and/or the bone if you have one) in a variety of recipes, including, ham and bean soup, and grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. Ham is also great for breakfast the next morning, along with a side of eggs and hashbrowns.

OUR BEST HAM RECIPES

These Traeger ham recipes can help you create a memorable meal:

Honey & Brown Sugar Glazed Ham – This gorgeous ham features our Honey & Brown Sugar Glaze paired with tangy oranges for a tender, juicy ham.

Baked Honey Ham – This classic ham has a beautiful scoring on the outside is studded with cloves.

Maple Baked Ham – Savory and sweet, this ham is easy to prepare and a top meal option for gatherings.

Old Fashioned Glazed Ham - Pineapple juice and maraschino cherries bring this vintage ham back into the spotlight.

Traeger Roasted Easter Ham - Brown sugar, a BBQ glaze, and sweet pineapple combine to great epic flavor.

Get the big list of holiday hams for all your special occasions

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