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How Long To Smoke A Raw Ham

Learn how long to smoke a raw ham, what are the best smoking temperatures, and what internal temperature you should aim for.  Let’s go!

a raw ham being smoked a long time
Why not try smoking a raw ham this holiday season? We think you’ll be glad you did!

With the holidays quickly approaching, now is the perfect time to learn how long it takes to smoke a raw ham to perfection.

We have previously gone in depth with everything you need to know to smoke a raw ham from start to finish.

You can check out the complete  “How to Smoke a Fresh Ham” article and recipe here.

But, if you already have a favorite recipe picked out, and are pretty comfortable with how to set up and how to use your smoker, then today we are just going to go over cooking times, cooking temperatures, and target internal temperatures to shoot for when smoking a raw ham.

Hopefully this will get you going on your way to smoking a delicious FRESH ham for your friends and family in no time!

 

What is Smoked Ham?

Ham is one of the most consumed varieties of pork in the world. The meat is taken from the leg and upper thigh of the pig known as the shank.

It is often cured with salt and various other spices, such as pepper and garlic, and sold already fully cooked in most American grocery chains and meat markets.

Therefore, most Americans have never actually cooked, or even handled a RAW ham.

What a travesty.

Smoked ham has a more unique taste than your garden variety sliced lunchmeat ham.  It has the heartier consistency of sliced pork shoulder, sometimes known as pork steaks in parts of the midwest.

And the best part?

Because you are starting with a raw, blank canvas, you can really make it your own with different spices, marinades, injections, and wood choices that you might not usually associate with a conventionally flavored ham!


 

What Temperature Should You Smoke A Raw Ham?

After you have prepared your meat with salt, spices, injections and marinades you will be ready to smoke it.

 

Size and Weight

In order to estimate how long it will take to smoke the raw ham, you will need to know how much your ham weighs.

Also, figure out whether you are smoking just the lean shank cut of ham, or a whole ham, which is not only bigger but also includes the fattier butt cut and will add to the cooking time as well.

The bigger the raw ham, of course, the longer it will take to smoke.

So how much ham do you really need to buy for your occasion?

Anticipate losing about 20% of the hams weight during smoking, so if you start with a 16 lb ham, it will weigh roughly 13 lbs when it’s done cooking.

According to Marthastewart.com, you should estimate about 3/4 lb of cooked ham per person for bone-in ham, and 1/2 lb per person for a boneless ham.

 

Target Internal Temperature for Raw Ham

To ensure that you are cooking any meat to a safe temperature, it is always best to double-check the food safety chart on the United States Department of Agriculture website.

You can find the link here.

In our case, it will give you a rough idea of what temperatures you will need according to the size of the raw ham.

Our recommendation is to cook the ham to an internal temperature of no less than 175 deg F.

Make sure to use a good quality instant meat thermometer or even better, a wireless dual internal meat and cooking chamber temperature probe set.


Always check multiple inner areas of the ham and keep the probe away from the bone.

175 deg F. will result in ham that is moist, fully cooked, and still intact enough to slice with a good quality meat knife, compared to pulled pork which is usually smoked all the way to an internal temperature around 195-203 deg F.


If you smoke your ham all the way to this temperature it will start to fall apart when you go to slice it.

Not what we want.

Make sure to also let the ham rest for 20-30 minutes after removing from the smoker before slicing to allow the juices and temperature to fully and evenly distribute.

 

Cooking Temperature

a raw ham smoking
This ain’t your boring deli counter ham.

Like other traditional slow smoked barbecue, the best cooking temperature to smoke a raw ham is between 225 and 275 deg F.

The steadier you can keep that temperature throughout the cook, the better your results will be.

If you are using an electric smoker or pellet grill to smoke your raw ham, simply set the temperature to somewhere in this range and let the cooker do all the work for you while you clean the patio and fill the cooler with drinks!

If you are using a vertical propane smoker, a charcoal smoker, or a gas grill with a smoker box or pellet tube smoker, well…then you will have to do a little more work during the cook to maintain that steady temperature.

But that’s half the fun of BBQ and also gives you a good excuse to be outside all day…right?!

 

So How Long to Smoke A Raw Ham?

Ok, so now you know the weight of your raw ham (oh, and make sure to weigh it AFTER you’ve injected, if you chose to inject a marinade, as this will add to the weight and the cook time.)

You know what temperature range to cook it in and you know what your target internal temperature is that you are shooting for when it will be done perfectly.

So how long will this big ol’ hunk of meat take to cook?

Like most realistic answers in BBQ: it depends on a number of things.

The cook time will also be affected by:

  • the outside temperature and humidity
  • whether you are using a water pan in your smoker
  • whether the ham is bone in or boneless
  • how steady you keep your temperature
  • how accurate your cooking chamber temperature gauge is, (always use a good quality temperature probe) and on and on

BUT, you can estimate it will on average take between 25 to 35 minutes per pound to smoke your ham (the lower end if boneless, the higher end if bone-in).

So if you’ve settled on a monster whole bone-in 16 pounder for an epic party, you could be looking at a full 8-hour smoking session…or even longer.

 

Mistakes to Avoid

Quit Looking at it!

Opening the smoker frequently  causes the smoker to drop in temperature.

looking at raw ham smoking on the grill
“Yup, it’s still a ham.”

If your ham is cooking well and its internal temperature is increasing at a slow and steady pace, we recommend keeping your smoker closed as much as possible.

Again, use a good dual temperature probe thermometer set to keep tabs on both the temperature of your soker and the temperature of your meat.


 

Don’t OVER Smoke your Raw Ham

While pork is a lot more forgiving than poultry and fish to being exposed to too much smoke, it IS possible to use TOO MUCH woodsmoke when cooking your ham.

too much smoke on a raw ham
Too much of a good thing.

If you are cooking on a pellet grill, you have no choice BUT to burn wood pellets throughout the entire cook, (pellet grills put a out a relatively small amount of woodsmoke over similar periods of time compared to using wood chunks and chips on other types of smokers).

Otherwise you will need to decide for how much of the cook you should be applying smoke to your food.

Smoke should be treated like any other ingredient in your cooking.  You can always add more, but if you add too much you are going to have a hard time correcting it and your ham could end up with a bitter, acrid taste near the surface.

We recommend applying woodsmoke for no longer than the first half of your estimated cooking time. 

Milder fruitwoods such as apple, cherry, and peach will be more forgiving than hickory.  And if you are trying your hand at Mesquite, a little goes a LONG way, trust us, so be frugal with it.


 

Don’t Apply Sugary Glazes Too Early in the Cook

Nothing goes better on a ham sometimes than a spicy, fruity glaze that will caramelize while cooking and then balance out the salt and fattiness of the meat.  We are particular fans of Braswells Montmorency Cherry Ham Glaze.

Braswells Montmorency Cherry Ham Glaze

cherry ham glaze for smoking a raw ham
Click to see Price on Amazon.

The key word here being “caramelize” though, not burn.

Salty rubs and marinades are fine, and even encouraged to be put on before smoking.  In fact, dry brining a ham overnight prior to smoking can result in juicier meat at the end of the cook.

However, sugary glazes are meant to be applied only in the last 30 minutes or so of cooking, even at low and slow bbq temperatures.

The same is true of applying bbq sauce on a rack of ribs you are smoking.

Don’t be putting that stuff on too early unless you want a mouth full of nasty charred carbon.

Yuck.

 

Turn Up the Heat So We Can Eat!

We’ve all been there.  Even the most experienced outdoor cooks.

turning up the fire to finish cooking a raw ham
“Can’t you turn up that smoker? We’re hungry!”

Your guests are all mulling about, checking their watches, and your spouse is giving you the side eye.

Maybe a few guests have wandered over to offer a less than helpful “Hey Buddy, how is everything going?” as their stomachs growl and the side dishes they brought start to get cold.

Meanwhile, you are keeping your smoker temperature nice and steady…”Low and slow is the way to go!”

…Right?

But that internal meat temperature is pegged at 150 deg F and will not budge.

This is known as the dredded “stall” in the barbecue world.

You know the meat is not ready or safe to serve, and everything you know about BBQ tells you it WILL get there and to keep the temperature steady right?

So should you open up all the dampers and crank the heat to finish it up?

Not so fast, you may very well burn the outside of your ham, especially if you already applided a sugary glaze or rub, without raising the internal tempratur more than a couple degrees.

Then all your hard work and preparation will have been for nothing.

There IS a better way…

 

Plan Ahead

Well, it’s always best to plan for this, and it’s best to finish your meat well before your guests are ready to eat to allow it to rest and so that no one is waiting around and hungry.

When in doubt, start smoking your raw ham EARLY.

You can always take it off the smoker, put it in a roasting pan, and HOLD it in the oven at a food safe temperature of 170 deg F, even for a few hours, while your guests arrive and get situated.

preheat oven for prime rib
There is no shame in holding the meat in a warm oven after it’s finished cooking.

Then, when everyone is ready eat, you can take the ham out of the oven and carve it at the perfect time.

If your ham does finish early like this, whether on purpose or accidentally, never just leave it sitting on the counter for more than 30 minutes.

Always HOLD it in an oven set at at least 165 deg F so that that the meat stays at a food safe temperature and you don’t accidentally give anyone food poisoning.

 

Wrap in Foil – The Texas Crutch

OK, that’s all well and good for Mr. or Ms. Early Bird, but what if if you STILL DIDN’T get it started early enough and your guests are hungry?

Well, it IS ok to turn up the heat on your ham, just don’t go overboard.

If you’ve been nursing it at 225 deg F all day and it has now stalled out, try bringing up the heat to around 275 deg F, but no higher than 325 deg F if possible.

aluminum foil to wrap a ham you are smoking
Like duct tape, what can’t you do with aluminum foil?

Secondly, once your ham hits 150 deg F you can wrap it in foil to help speed along the cooking as well.

This is known in BBQ circles as the Texas Crutch as is used widely by many competition cooks to help speed along the cooking time of large beef briskets and pork shoulders that have been known to stall out for hours around 150 deg F if left to cook unwrapped.

Make sure to double or triple wrap it very tightly so that very little air can escape through the seams.

This keeps in all that evaporating moisture that is continuously cooling your ham off and will help that meat power through the stall and continue to rise in temperature, WITHOUT having to turn up the heat and risk during the outside of the ham..

Thinks of it like running on a hot day while wearing a full body sweat suit vs. just a light shirt and shorts.

Keep your meat thermometer in place with the foil wrapped around it and once the ham reaches the 170 deg F mark you can unwrap it, maybe apply a little more glaze if any was rubbed off by the foil, and continue to cook until it hits that target 175 deg F mark.

 

Summary And Suggestions

We hope this has helped you on your journey to smoking a raw ham!

The smoking process will be slightly different for every smoker, every backyard cook, and every raw ham.

Remember, these things come from animals, not widgets!

As a general guideline, you will need to smoke a raw ham for around 5-6 hours, while consistently checking the temperature of the smoker and meat.

How long it takes to cook the raw ham will be affected by weather, your smoker, the accuracy of your thermometer, and obviously, the size of your ham itself.

The best advice is to plan ahead and start your cook early.  You can always hold it in an oven at a food safe temperature!

 

Smoked Ham on a Pellet Grill

If you are looking for an easy to use smoker to achieve a perfectly smoked ham, that you can also use as an everyday grill to make steaks and burgers, we recommend checking out Z Grills affordable line of pellet grills.

Z Grills create fantastic “8-in-1” smokers that also function as grills, and ovens, and rotisseries, and almost any other outdoor cooking apparatus you can think of!

And their automatic pellet disbursement always keeps your temperature nice and steady!

Here are three of or favorite models for you to check out!

 

ZPG-1000E 

Z grills 1000 serieries for smoking a raw ham
Click to see Price at Zgrills.com

 

700 SERIES

Z grills 700 series for smoking a raw ham
Click to see Price at Zgrills.com

 

Z Grills Basic Series Pellet Smoker

Z grills 550B for smoking a raw ham
Click to see Price at Zgrills.com

 

What Else Can I Smoke?

Looking for some more smoker inspiration?

Check out some great recipes of smoked and grilled food to try out at your next outdoor BBQ!

Trash Can Turkey – OK, technically not made on a grill but one of the funnest ways there is to cook a Turkey…at over 700 degrees in only 2 hours!  You’ve got to check it out!

burning a fire in a trash can turkey
Check out one of our favorite recipes: Trash Can Turkey!!

 

 

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