How to Cook a Smoked Ham: The Right Way

Last Updated on August 26, 2022


Annabelle Watson

Annabelle is an experienced food writer and editor. She focuses on common sense, easy to replicate recipes formulated to help keep things fresh and exciting while fitting into her day to day life as a wife and mother.

smoked ham

Ham is one of those dishes that can bring a family together. When you sit down together and see that ham sitting in the center of the table, it brings to mind all the family dinners you shared over the years. Whether you buy a smoked ham or purchase a fresh ham that you want to smoke, you can easily create a memorable dish.

1. Smoked vs. Fresh Ham

One thing to keep in mind is that a fresh ham is completely different from a smoked ham. A smoked ham is one that comes fully cooked and ready to eat. You can usually bring it up to temperature in the oven or your smoker in just a few short hours.

Fresh ham requires more prep work on your part. As the ham is only partially cooked, it will need to spend more time in the smoker before you can serve it.

This gives you the chance to add your own flavor to the finished dish.

2. Setting the Scene

The most important things you need to cook a smoked ham include a roasting pan, the ham itself, your smoker and some type of wood chips. Most fruit woods pair nicely with ham, including apple and cherry. You can add the apple and cherry wood chips to the smoker and adjust the temperature to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.

Many experts who smoke regularly have dedicated pans that they use for cooking. A disposable aluminum pan will work just as well, though you should make sure that it’s strong enough to support your ham. The last thing you want is to see the pan break in half and your ham fall on the ground.

3. Whisk the Brown Sugar Glaze

One of the classic glaze recipes used on ham is a brown sugar glaze. Depending on where you bought your ham, it may even come with this recipe printed on the tag. The recipe calls for just brown sugar, mustard and pineapple juice.

After you remove the ham from its packaging, you’ll lightly cover the outside with the mustard and give it a sprinkle of brown sugar. Adding a drizzle of pineapple juice over the top creates a classic flavor combination.

It’s important that you rub this mixture together until it creates a paste on the surface of the meat and that you carefully spread the mixture across the entire ham.

4. Cooking Smoked Ham

For smoked ham that comes partially cooked, you don’t need to spend as much time in the smoker. You can insert the pan in the smoker and set a timer for two hours. This is really all it takes to heat up a partially cooked or a fully cooked ham. It may take longer to cook a fresh ham though.

A great reason to use the glaze recipe above is that it creates a thick liquid in the base of the pan. Check on the meat every 30 minutes and baste the ham with this liquid, which also includes the juices that came out of the meat. Though some prefer using a squeeze tube to spread the liquid on the ham quickly, a basting brush gives you more control over where that liquid goes.

To make sure that the ham cooks but doesn’t cook too much, place a layer of aluminum foil on the top. You can wrap the foil around the top of the ham and the bone that sticks out. This will also keep the glaze from burning onto the meat.

5. Creating a Second Glaze

For a smoked ham that will knock the socks off all your guests, consider making a second glaze that you add to the ham later in the cooking process. You can use either the heat from your grill or a burner on your stove for this step. All you need is some more brown sugar and pineapple juice.

In a pan sauce, combine one cup of fresh or canned pineapple juice with ¼ cup of packed light brown sugar. You’ll want to bring the heat up slowly until the mixture begins boiling and then turn it down once the mixture thickens. A good glaze is one that you can easily apply to your meat.

If you aren’t a fan of pineapple juice, feel free to use any type of fruit juice that you have in the pantry. Citrus juices work particularly well, including lemon and orange juice. You can use this same juice on the ham when you place it in the smoker in lieu of pineapple juice.

6. Check the Temperature

As the smoked ham cooks, you’ll want to check on the temperature every 30 minutes or so. Once the ham reaches a maximum temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit, you can add the second glaze. While wearing heat-resistant gloves, carefully remove the foil from the top of the ham.

Using a basting brush or another BBQ tool, apply a thin layer of the glaze over all the areas of the ham that you can see and reach. You can go over the ham as many times as you want. The more glaze that you add, the deeper those flavors will penetrate into the meat. This also produces a thicker crust on the ham.

It’s important that you let the ham sit uncovered inside the smoker for a full 60 minutes. Though you can turn the heat down or completely turn off the smoker, you want enough heat that it will help the glaze form a crust on the ham. Once the ham reaches a temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit when you insert a meat thermometer for smoker, it’s ready to come out of the smoker.

7. Carving and Serving

An electric knife is one of the best tools for carving a smoked ham because it lets you carve the perfect slices for your family.

Before you carve though, give the ham at least 20 minutes to rest. Not only does this bring the temperature down to a level that you can handle, but it also gives the meat more time to absorb your glaze.

You can serve the cooked and smoked ham with treasured side dishes, including mashed potatoes and green bean casserole.