There are many ways of making a good-tasting smoked ham, whether it be different smoked ham recipes like smoked ham hock, double smoked ham, traeger smoked ham, twice smoked ham, and smoked ham glaze. Some people must have their way of doing it, but I would like to share my method.
What is a Smoked Ham?
A classic cut of meat, hams are salted and then smoked to preserve them. The resulting taste is fairly strong – making hams ideal for cold cuts or mixed into casseroles.
Smoked ham contains high amounts of protein. It also has several amino acids that help stimulate your metabolism, which helps burn fat over time. Choosing natural ham over processed meats like bacon can save you calories (and cash) while helping you stay on track with your weight loss goals.
Ham is also an excellent source of zinc selenium and niacin, which help support your immune system.
First of all, the basic principle is that you have to have a real slow-smoked ham for about 12 hours or so to get that deep rich brown color and mellow taste some folks call “the real thing.” Except for some saltwater cure products on the market, most hams available today are pre-cooked before they reach your meat counters.
This makes turning out a great-tasting ham very simple compared with years ago when some folks actually had to wait three months or longer for their hams to cure, smoke, and mellow, at which time they were finally ready to eat.
Some pre-cooked hams on the market are known as “city hams,” country hams, or Virginia Hams, but no matter what you call them, most are brined with saltwater, sugar, and seasonings before smoking.
It is essential to know that ham intended for home curing must not be confused with commercially produced cooked hams. Ham offered today by nearly all meat markets is a product of one of three different methods used in turning out their brand name product, namely:
- Wet brining
- Dry packing
- Injecting with additional vegetable protein broth (Vegas)
Wet Brine Method
The wet brine method has been around for decades and is still used extensively today. This process, or “pickling” the ham, consists of immersing the ham into a large crock filled with a saltwater solution which varies in salinity to obtain that specific amount of sodium chloride necessary to cure it properly.
The finished cured product weighs approximately 3/4 pounds lighter than its unsalted counterpart due to this brining process which removes some moisture from the meat itself.
Dry packing involves completely covering the ham with salt, sugar, and seasonings until it has absorbed sufficient ingredients for proper curing. Therefore, when you buy your ham at the store, you will see white patches on both sides where excess dry salt has been rubbed off before being wrapped in plastic film.
The third method mentioned above is called injecting, or “vegas” for short. This process involves using an instrument resembling a hypodermic needle to suck the ham delicately into that famous Vegas broth, giving it its unique flavor and taste.
The finished product looks much like a regular ham but has more significant fat deposits around the cut surfaces due to increased pressure applied during this injection process, increasing the weight by about 20 percent but not necessarily making it tastier.
For our purposes, all you have to do is buy your favorite variety of pre-cooked ham in either one of these three forms at your favorite meat market, then select two types of wood chips with which to smoke it, depending on what kind of ham you bought.
For example, a wet brined variety will take on more of the smoke flavors than one that has been dry-packed or injected. Pick your favorite flavor of either mesquite, hickory, sweetgum, cherry, etc., and follow these easy instructions:
Preparing the Ham
- Wash your ham in cold running water for two minutes to remove excess salt and sugar before smoking it.
- Remove any plastic wrap or netting around the bone ends and score the fat diagonally at 1/4-inch intervals making diamond shapes about 3/8 inch deep all over the cut surface from end to end. This allows for the maximum circulation of heat through this fatty area during smoking which helps prevent jamming when slicing after it is cooked.
Flavoring and Smoking the Ham
- Place the ham into a large plastic bag or container and pour in your favorite commercial brand of mustard (powdered), serving two purposes. The first is to help create additional smoke flavor by allowing it to mix with your choice of smoke wood (wood chips). The second reason is that this mustard’s acidic content helps break down fat deposits when cooking, making them more palatable to eat.
- Sprinkle on some brown sugar (light) over the entire cut surface before smoking for 20 minutes per pound at 225 degrees F using any type of homemade smoker.
Cooking the Ham
- After the initial smoking, allow the ham to cool for at least 4 hours before opening and placing it into a large roasting pan.
- Mix 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar and two teaspoons ground black pepper, pour evenly over ham, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake for 3 hours in a preheated 350 degree F oven until internal meat temperature reaches between 150-160 degrees F as measured by an instant-read thermometer.
- Remove from oven, remove the aluminum foil, coat the entire cut surface with the barbecue sauce of your choice (optional) before slicing and serving.
Smoked meats are gaining in popularity though they can be hard to cook well when you don’t know what makes good quality smoked meats different from overcooked or under-smoked ones.
Smoked hams are easiest to make using an electric smoker, so you can carefully monitor the cooking process for quality results every time. Whether you cook any of the different smoked ham recipes such as smoked ham hock, double smoked ham, traeger smoked ham, twice smoked ham, and smoked ham glaze.