How to Smoke a Fresh Ham – Recipe, Tips, & Guide

If you love fresh ham as much as we do, you may be wondering how to smoke a fresh ham for the best results?

The first thing to know is that there is a difference between fresh and cured ham and a difference in how each of them can be cooked and consumed.

Cured ham has been cured via brining or wet curing and thus has all of the bacteria killed off from it. The cured ham is usually pink or dark rose in color. It is the type of ham that you will typically find in the store and is ready for consumption.

Fresh ham, on the other hand, has not been cured. It is paler pink or beige in color and looks like pork roast. It is often referred to as “green ham” and is among the most suitable choices for meat for smoking for any occasion or during the festive season.

By smoking a fresh ham, you can achieve an unmatched flavor, which is close to the traditional barbecue roast we all love.

Here is a guide and tips on how to smoke a fresh ham.

Here is what you will need for smoking a fresh ham

smoking-a-fresh-ham
Photo credit: blog.sausagemaker.com

These are the main ingredients, tools, and materials you will need to smoke a fresh ham:

A suitable smoker

You can use the smoker you have, but the most successful results with fresh ham can be achieved with a traditional charcoal smoker, a pellet grill, or a kamado grill.

Charcoal or pellets and smoke wood

Depending on the type of smoker you will be using, you will need charcoal or pellets. Also, it would be best if you got some wood chips or grill pellets that are flavored. The most suitable wood for smoking a fresh ham is apple, cherry, or hickory. But you can experiment with the flavor you like or already have.

Fresh ham

You can use a butt cut or a shank cut, but the former is the better option for smoking, as it has more meat than the latter cut.

On the other hand, the shank cut will usually be less expensive.

Choose a cut that can fit into your smoker.

Dry rub

Pick the dry rub of your choice, or make some from scratch using kosher salt, ground black pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, onion powder, paprika, dried thyme, or other spices and dried herbs that you prefer.

Other ingredients and tools

  • Pineapple juice
  • Yellow mustard
  • Brown sugar
  • A meat thermometer
  • A basting brush or mop
  • Aluminum foil
  • An injector (if planning on injecting the ham)

Ingredients for the optional ham injection

  • Pineapple juice ¼ cup
  • Apple juice ¾ cup
  • Water 1 cup
  • Kosher salt ½ cup
  • Brown sugar ½ cup
  • Worcestershire sauce 2 tablespoons

Setting up the smoker for smoking fresh ham

Setting up the smoker is the first step for making perfect smoked fresh ham.

Use a chimney starter to light up the charcoal, and add it to the coal rack of the smoker.

When the center becomes red and glowing, you can add some of the chosen wood chips and allow for the heat to rise and the smoke to build up.

You should be aiming at setting the temperature of the smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit for the fresh ham.

Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature inside the smoker.

Prepare the fresh ham

While your smoker is heating up, you can start prepping the fresh ham for the cooking.

Use a sharp knife to cut slits on the surface of the fresh ham, making a diamond-shaped pattern. The cuts should be only up to ¼ inch deep, so make sure that you do not cut into the meat too deeply.

These cuts are made so that the fresh ham crisps on the outside and to allow for the rub and the other seasoning to penetrate the meat better.

After you are done with the slits, apply yellow mustard to the entire surface of the fresh ham. You can use a basting brush or a mop. Apply a thin layer on the whole ham. This will allow for the rub and the other seasoning to adhere to it properly for smoking.

Use a rub shaker or your hands to apply the rub on the entire surface of the ham, including the cuts which you made earlier.

If you want to inject the fresh ham, now is the moment to do so.

Mix the ingredients from the recipe above in a saucepan and bring them to a boil. Use an injector to insert the mixture into the meat evenly.

By adding this injection, the ham will have a lighter flavor and will be moister. If you prefer not to inject the ham, it will most probably absorb more of the smokiness from the cooking.

Let the ham cool down following the injection.

Place the fresh ham in the smoker

When the ham has been seasoned and has cooled down from the injection, and when the temperature in the smoker reaches 225 degrees Fahrenheit, you can proceed to place the fresh ham in it.

You may need to add more coal or wood chips and open or close the air ducts of the cooker in order to adjust the temperature and smoke.

The smoking of the ham will usually take about 20 minutes per pound of meat. But what you should be looking at is the internal temperature of the ham. It needs to be 190 degrees Fahrenheit for proper doneness and cooking.

While the ham is cooking in the smoker, you can baste the fresh ham with a mixture of pineapple juice and brown sugar. This should be done every couple of hours with a suitable basting brush. Thanks to the basting, the ham will develop a flavorful caramelized crust.

Use a meat thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the ham. Once it reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit, you should remove the meat from the smoker and wrap it loosely with aluminum foil. Leave openings at the ends to allow the smoke to reach the ham.

Overall, avoid opening the lid of the smoker during the cooking, unless you are basting it or are wrapping it, to make sure that the heat and the smoke remain inside and are consistent.

Continue cooking the fresh ham until the temperature in its center reaches 190 degrees Fahrenheit.

Usually, it will take about 8 hours to cook the fresh ham in the smoker.

Rest the smoked fresh ham and serve it

Pull out the smoked fresh ham from the smoker when its internal temperature reaches 190 degrees Fahrenheit. Leave it wrapped in the foil and let it rest for 30 minutes before slicing it. This will allow for the juices to redistribute and the meat juicier and tenderer.

When it has rested properly, unwrap the ham, carve it and serve it with the sauces, dips, and sides of your choice.

How to smoke a fresh ham – a quick overview

Tools and equipment you will need

  • A smoker
  • Charcoal or pellets
  • Smoke wood chips (apple, cherry, hickory, or other)
  • A basting brush
  • A meat probe thermometer
  • Aluminum foil
  • An injector for meat (if you are planning on injecting the ham)

Ingredients

  • Fresh ham – about 10 lbs. (for 8 servings)
  • Dry rub of your choice – 2 cups
  • Yellow mustard – 1 cup
  • Pineapple juice – 1 cup
  • Brown sugar – 1 tablespoon

Ingredients for the injection (optional)

  • Pineapple juice – ¼ cup
  • Apple juice – ¾ cup
  • Water – 1 cup
  • Kosher salt – ½ cup
  • Brown sugar – ½ cup
  • Worcestershire sauce – 1 tablespoon

Quick instructions for smoking fresh ham

  1. Set up and preheat the smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit by lighting up the charcoal or pellets and adding the wood chips of your choice when they are glowing red in the center.
  2. Prepare the fresh ham by cutting a diamond-shaped pattern on the skin with a depth of up to ¼ inches. Coat the entire surface with a thin layer of yellow mustard.
  3. Coat the entire surface with the rub of your choice.
  4. If injecting, prepare the mixture and bring it to a boil. Inject it evenly using a meat injector. Let the ham cool down after the injection.
  5. Wait until the smoker reaches 225 degrees Fahrenheit before placing the prepped fresh ham on the grate in the smoker.
  6. Close the lid of the smoker.
  7. Mix the pineapple juice with brown sugar and use the mixture and a basting brush to baste the ham every two hours.
  8. Monitor the temperature, and when the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit, take out the ham and wrap it loosely with some aluminum foil. Remember to leave openings on each side to let the smoke in.
  9. Place the ham back inside the cooker and wait until the temperature in the center of the ham reaches 190 degrees Fahrenheit.
  10. Remove the ham from the smoker without unwrapping it from the foil and let it rest for 30 minutes.
  11. Carve the smoked fresh ham, and serve according to your preference.

How long does it take to make smoked fresh ham?

While it is advisable to cook the fresh ham until its internal temperature reaches 190 degrees Fahrenheit at the center, the recommended time for smoking fresh ham is 15-20 minutes per pound of meat.

Related: The Best Meat Slicers for Home Use in 2022

Final Words

Now that you know how to make delicious smoked fresh ham at home easily, we hope that you find our geode useful for prepping and cooking the ham.

The procedure is pretty straightforward, and when you get the hang of it, and if you enjoy the result, you can continue preparing this delicious main dish for your friends and for all kinds of occasions.

Once you try this fresh ham smoked in accordance with this recipe, we are pretty sure that you will want to make it over and over again!

Check our guide and learn how to make smoked spiral ham with honey glaze and brown sugar

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