How to brine & smoke a fresh ham

Written by jo burns
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How to brine & smoke a fresh ham
The humble ham goes through many processes before being eaten. (ham image by Soja Andrzej from

A ham starts as a pork loin. Not until the loin is cured (brined) and cooked, typically smoked, does it take on the flavour and texture we associate with the product known as ham. Making a ham at home requires time and some specialised equipment; however, by overseeing the process yourself you can infuse the meat with the flavours you prefer and ensure you end up with a ham of the highest quality.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Cure
  • Spices
  • Stock pot
  • Container
  • Bowl
  • Meat thermometer
  • Smoker
  • Wood
  • Pan
  • Liquid

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  1. 1

    Mix 1 gallon of brine per every 4.54kg of ham. For 1 gallon of brine, pour 1 gallon of water, 1/4 cup white sugar and 1 cup picking salt in a stock pot and heat until the salt and sugar are dissolved. The addition of a prepackaged cure is recommended for a traditional pink colour. Mustard seed, clove and other traditional pickling spices are optional.

  2. 2

    Cool the brine to at least 4.44 degrees Celsius. Place the ham in a plastic or glass container with a tight-fitting lid and pour the brine over it. Close the lid.

  3. 3

    Refrigerate the ham for 2 to 5 days, according to your taste preferences. The longer the ham remains in the brine, the saltier it will be. Smaller hams will require shorter brining times. Monitor the temperature of the ham while it is brining and keep it between 3.33 and 4.44 degrees Celsius.

  4. 4

    Remove the ham from the brine and rinse it in lukewarm water. Place the ham in a bowl of 170-degree water until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 68.3 degrees Celsius. Once the ham has warm, it is ready to cook.

  1. 1

    Start your smoker and heat it to 107 degrees Celsius. Use applewood for a traditional flavour.

  2. 2

    Place a pan of liquid in the bottom of the smoker. Use plain water or a mixture of water with beer, vinegar, wine or Worcestershire sauce.

  3. 3

    Cook at 107 degrees Celsius until the internal temperature of the meat is 71.1 degrees C at the thickest section, approximately 5 to 6 hours for a 4.54kg. ham.

Tips and warnings

  • Most hams that are put in the oven for glazing are precooked. You can do the same with a ham you've prepared at home. Use the traditional combination of pineapple juice and brown sugar to glaze your ham after smoking.
  • Slice your smoked ham across the grain for the most tender eating.
  • Do not add additional salt to your ham after brining or it may become dry and unpalatable.

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