How to smoke a ham in an electric smoker

Photos for this recipe are from Erin Hungsberg (IG: erin_hungsberg)

Ham is a delicious and versatile cut of meat, making it a popular choice for holidays, family gatherings, or any special occasion. Smoking ham imparts a rich, smoky flavor while keeping the meat tender and juicy. In this recipe, I’ll take you through the steps on how to smoke a ham in an electric smoker that I think will give you the best results. 

Selecting the Right Ham

Before we dive into the smoking process, let’s start with the basics: choosing the right ham. There are a few key factors to consider:

  1. Type of Ham: You can choose from various types of ham, such as bone-in ham, boneless, spiral-cut, whole ham or pre-cooked ham. The type you select will affect your cooking method and timing. Around the holidays you can find ham at your local grocery store just about anywhere. For this ham recipe I’m using a whole, pre cooked ham. 
  2. Size of the ham: Hams come in different sizes, and the cooking time will depend on the weight of your ham. A general rule of thumb is to allow around 20-30 minutes of cooking time per pound.
  3. Flavor: Consider whether you want a fully cooked ham or a fresh ham that requires more work. Precooked hams are convenient but may lack the depth of flavor you get with a fresh, raw ham.
  4. Curing Method: Hams can be wet-cured or dry-cured. The curing process affects the flavor and saltiness of the ham.

Preparing the Ham

Once you’ve selected the right ham, it’s time to prepare it for smoking. Follow these steps:

  1. Thawing: If your ham is frozen, ensure it’s fully thawed in the refrigerator. This can take several days, so plan ahead.
  2. Trimming: Examine your ham for any excess fat, skin, or undesirable parts. Trim them to your preference.
  3. Score the Ham: Using a sharp knife, make shallow cuts or scores across the surface of the ham. This will allow the flavors to penetrate and create an attractive presentation.

Brining (Optional)

To add extra flavor and moisture to your ham, you can choose to brine it. A basic brine consists of water, salt, sugar, and optional spices. Submerge the ham in the brine, refrigerate, and let it soak for at least 24 hours. Some hams are already pre brined so just check the packaging to see. 

Seasoning

After brining (or if you decide not to brine), it’s time to season your ham. I like a layer of Dijon mustard on the ham as a binder to help the rub stick. Yellow mustard or olive oil works well too.

Then I use a bbq dry rub that I make from scratch. You can find it here. In a pinch any all purpose bbq rub will work fine.

My rub has ingredients like brown sugar, dry mustard, garlic, smoked paprika, salt and black pepper. Apply the rub evenly all over the ham, ensuring it sticks to the scores you made earlier.

Setting Up Your Electric Smoker

You can use an electric smoker similar to this one. Make sure it’s clean and ready for action.

Follow these steps to set it up:

  1. Preheat: Turn on your electric smoker and preheat it to a temperature between 225°F to 250°F (107°C to 121°C).
  2. Wood Chips:  Common wood choices for ham include hickory, apple, or cherry. Some people say to soak your wood chips but I find that the smoke is much cleaner when the chips are not wet. 
  3. Water Pan: Fill the water pan in your smoker to create a moist cooking environment. This helps maintain the ham’s moisture.
  4. Place the Ham: If your electric smoker has adjustable racks, choose the one that best fits your ham. Place the ham on the rack, making sure there’s enough space for smoke circulation.

How to smoke a ham in an electric smoker

With the smoker preheated and the ham ready, it’s time to get started:

  1. Temperature Control: Maintain a consistent temperature inside the smoker, adjusting it as needed to stay within the 225°F to 250°F range. This low and slow cooking method will infuse the ham with smoky flavor and keep it tender.
  2. Smoke Time: The smoking process will take time, so be patient. Plan on smoking the ham for about 3 to 5 hours, depending on its size and type. Remember to add more wood chips as needed to keep the smoke flowing, about every 30- 40 minutes. Consider using a pellet grill for a more convenient option. If the ham looks like its getting too dark or burning on the top place some aluminum foil over it. 
  3. Monitoring: Use a reliable meat thermometer to keep an eye on the internal temperature of the ham. You’re aiming for an internal temperature of around 140°F (60°C). At this point, the ham will be perfectly cooked, juicy, and bursting with flavor.

Resting and Serving

When the ham reaches the desired internal temperature, remove it from the smoker. Allow it to rest for about 20 minutes before carving. This resting period lets the juices redistribute within the meat, ensuring a juicy and tender ham.

Glazing your ham 

No proper holiday ham is without a nice shiny glaze. To add an extra layer of flavor, you can glaze your ham during the last 30 minutes of smoking. My ham glaze recipe includes brown sugar, orange juice, maple syrup and a little bourbon.  A little cinnamon and cayenne go a long way to give you an extra pop of flavor and all of the holiday vibes.

Combine all of the glaze ingredients in a medium size pot and bring to a boil then reduce and simmer on low heat until thickened.

The glaze will thicken a little more as it cools and if you need to thicken it some more add a tablespoon or two of powdered sugar until it is your desired consistency.  Brush the glaze onto the ham and let it caramelize as the ham continues to smoke.

Carving and Enjoying Your Smoked Ham

With the ham properly rested and potentially glazed, it’s time to carve and serve. Follow these tips for a perfect presentation:

  1. Slice against the Grain: To achieve the most tender slices, cut against the grain of the ham.
  2. Thickness: The thickness of your slices is a matter of personal preference. Some like thin slices, while others prefer thicker, heartier portions.
  3. Serve with Sides: Smoked ham pairs wonderfully with a variety of sides, including mashed potatoes, green beans, coleslaw, or a fresh salad.
  4. Leftovers: Try my Cranberry ham and cheese sliders. They are the best way to use up all of your leftovers. 

Wrapping up

Cooking a ham on an electric smoker may take some time and patience, but the results are well worth it. Your guests will be impressed by the rich, smoky flavor and juicy tenderness of the ham. Whether it’s a holiday feast, a special occasion, or a Sunday dinner, smoked ham is a versatile and crowd-pleasing dish.

Sides that go well with ham 

Creamy mashed potatoes 

Smoked Green bean casserole 

The best loaded baked beans 

Easy jalapeño cheddar corn pudding 

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How to smoke a ham in an electric smoker

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Ham is a delicious and versatile cut of meat, making it a popular choice for holidays, family gatherings, or any special occasion. If you own an electric smoker, you have a fantastic tool to elevate your ham game and get that smoke flavor we all love. 

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 whole ham 
  • 2 tablespoons of dijon mustard 
  • 2 tablespoons of an all purpose bbq rub or homemade 

Orange maple bourbon glaze 

  • 1/2 cup orange juice 
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup 
  • 1/4 cup bourbon 
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne 

Instructions

  1. Fill your wood chip tray with your favorite wood chips as well as the water reservoir with water. Preheat your electric smoker between 225-250°F. 
  2. Score the top of your ham by making a crosshatch pattern with your knife. Apply Dijon mustard binder to ham and cover with bbq rub. 
  3. Smoke your ham until it gets to an internal temperature of 140°F. Fill chip tray with more wood chips and  water reservoir with water as needed (About every 30-40 minutes). 
  4. Make the glaze for the ham by combining all of the ingredients together in a small pot on medium heat. Once to a boil reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes until the glaze has thickened. The glaze will thicken more as it cools. (If needed to thicken further whisk in 1-2 tablespoons of powdered sugar until your desired consistency). 
  5. Once the ham is at 130°F internally start to brush the glaze onto the ham. Make sure you get a nice even coating on the top and sides. 
  6. Remove the ham from the smoker when it reaches 140°F and let it rest for 20 minutes before slicing. Serve with additional glaze if desired. 
  • Author: Jordan Hanger

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