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How to Smoke a Raw Ham




Whether you are a pit master or a weekend warrior, smoking meat can be satisfying and delicious.

This is where the real fun is! In selecting your fresh ham leg and curing and smoking it from scratch you have full control over the quality of your finished ham.

Fresh ham takes about 5 hours to smoke at 250°F (120°C), or until its internal temperature reaches 165°F (75°C). Smoking ham can be broken down into three easy steps: Curing, glazing, and smoking. Each stage helps infuse the pork with rich flavor and moisture.



Curing


The first step is to cure the ham. Curing the ham draws moisture out of the meat, enables the salt and flavors of the brine to penetrate the meat, gives the ham a great flavor and enables it to retain its color. Bypassing this process will just give you cooked pork with a cooked pork flavor versus the appearance and flavor of ham.


In most cases curing refers to dry curing, which is a way of drying meat so that it lasts longer. However, in the case of smoking we want to wet cure it. While this doesn’t dry the meat out, it helps stop warmer temperatures from encouraging bacteria to grow on the meat. Obviously in the case of smoking, this is exactly what we want. Plus, it also helps give pork its unique pink color.


To cure the ham, you will need to prepare a brine, place the ham in the brine and allow it so sit, or “cure”, for 7 days (that’s about one day per pound of meat).


In a large saucepan, bring a gallon of water to the boil and mix in the following ingredients:

· 1 ½ cups salt

· 2 cups brown sugar

· ½ cup pickling spice

· 8 tsp pink salt


The brine will infuse the ham with flavor as it slowly penetrates the ham over the course of a week. For this reason, using a rub later on is somewhat redundant. Plus, unlike the brine, the flavors from the rub will not penetrate the meat while it’s smoking, they will simply remain on the surface. You can still apply a rub if you wish but it isn’t necessary. Between the brine, the smoke and the glaze, your ham will be wonderfully flavorful!



Prepare for cooking


  • Once your ham has finished curing, remove it from the fridge. Carefully remove it from the brining bag. Rinse the meat under cold water to wash off any crystallized or residual salt on its surface.

  • Place the ham on a cooking grate to drain for a few hours. I recommend using a food fly cover to help protect the meat while it’s draining.

  • Once drained, wipe off any excess brine or liquid from the meat with a paper towel. Put the ham back in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook it.



Cooking


  • Start off slow, so heat up your smoker to around 250°F/120°C. Place the meat in the smoker with the fat side up. Close the lid and leave to cook for two hours.

  • On two hours, crank up the heat to 325°F/160°C and continue to cook for another 1 or 2 hours.

  • Check the ham’s internal temperature regularly with a meat thermometer. At no point do we want to go over an internal temperature of 165°F/75°C.

  • Once into the final hour of cooking, apply the glaze to the ham, if you choose. Spread the glaze on generously and repeat every 15 minutes, giving you four layers of glaze in total.

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