Amid exclamations of delight, the smoked ham arrives at the summer buffet or holiday table wrapped in a tasty glaze or studded with cloves. While smoking a 9-pound ham can be a time-consuming process if you start with a fresh pork butt, you can reduce the smoking time considerably by beginning with a precooked ham or country ham. A pre-smoked ham takes even less time in the smoker; you only have to heat it up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and it's ready to carve and enjoy.
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Types of Hams
There's a wide range of pork products you can smoke in your charcoal, propane or electric grill. In general, you should select a fresh pork butt, a precooked ham or a country ham. Each has its own distinct and delicious flavor after it's smoked in a smoker. In addition, ham cooking time will vary by product, so if you're in a hurry, a precooked ham may be the best choice.
Uncooked Pork Butt
Select an uncooked pork butt or an uncured, uncooked ham. Take it out of the packaging, and remove the excess fat from the meat. Mix salt, brown sugar or honey and spices according to your favorite smoked ham recipe, and rub the mixture onto the outside of the ham. If desired, slash the top of the ham in a diamond pattern with a sharp knife, or cut 1-inch-deep holes in the ham and insert small pieces of garlic cloves.
Fully Cooked Ham
Remove the wrappings. Cut off the skin and fat, leaving approximately 1/2-inch fat over the meat. Score the fat in a diamond pattern; then add spices or soak in a marinade or syrup mixture. Remove the ham from the glaze. If desired, stud with cloves before placing in the smoker.
Unsmoked Country Ham
Country hams are available smoked or unsmoked. Unwrap the ham. It may have mold growing on the outside, but this is natural. Place the ham in the sink under warm running water and scrub it with a brush to remove the mold.
To prepare an unsmoked country ham for smoking, after scrubbing it, place in a large pot and cover it with water. Place the pot in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours. Change the water every 6 hours. This removes the excess salt and rehydrates the ham. After soaking, rinse the ham with cool water and pat dry.
Start the Smoker
Soak hardwood chips in water. If using an electric smoker, set the temperature at 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Fill the smoker's water pan and add wet wood chips.
If using a charcoal smoker or grill, start the charcoal briquettes first. When the briquettes are glowing, push them to the side and place a pan under the grill. Fill the pan with water. Place the grill over the pan and coals and add wet wood chips over the coals. Add additional charcoal as needed to keep the smoker at 225 degrees.
Use indirect heat with propane grills. Place a pan filled with water on one side of the grill, and light the propane on the other side. When the grill is hot, add the wet wood chips. Turn the heat down to low and monitor the temperature to maintain a temperature of approximately 225 degrees.
When your grill or smoker is hot, add the ham over the water-filled pan. Add approximately 1 cup of wet wood chips every hour or several wet wood chunks every 2 to 4 hours to keep the smoke going. Keep the water pan full; don't let it go dry.
Ham Cooking Time
Smoke a pork butt or uncooked, uncured ham for 1 to 1 1/2 hours per pound. Smoke the ham for 5 to 7 hours. Then remove it from the smoker; wrap it in heavy-duty foil and return to the smoker for another 1 to 1½ hours. Monitor the temperature closely; once the meat reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit, remove it from the smoker. Allow the ham to rest for 20 minutes before slicing.
When heating a country or precooked ham, smoke it for 2 to 3 hours until the ham reaches at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Baste with syrup at least twice while smoking the ham. If your recipe calls for pineapple or other fruit, add it during the last 30 minutes of smoking.
Finish in the Oven
Outdoor temperatures and time constraints may require you to finish cooking a smoked ham in the oven. Once it's spent several hours in the smoker, you can move it to the oven to finish the cooking process. You can also use the oven to reheat a fully cooked smoked ham.
Heat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Put the ham in a roasting pan and cover it with foil. Roast a fully cooked smoked ham for 15 to 20 minutes per pound or until the interior temperature reaches at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit. If you're finishing cooking a fresh, partially smoked ham, move it from the smoker to the oven and cook it until the interior temperature reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not let it cool between the smoker and the oven; bacteria can grow in the partially cooked pork.