How to brine a fresh ham

Updated April 17, 2017

Brining ham marinates the pork and creates crowd-pleasing flavourful meat. Fresh ham is not smoked or cured. Brining a fresh ham is a simple process that requires few ingredients. Typically brines consist of salt and water, but you can add additional spices. Different spices give your fresh ham a specific taste, such as a sweet or spicy flavour. Additionally, meat that is not brined is often dry when cooked at high temperatures.

Pour 1 gallon cold water into a plastic container. The water must cover the fresh ham, so place the ham in the container to verify the water level. Add water as needed to cover the ham, and then remove the ham.

Boil 1 cup water. Dissolve 3/4 cup kosher salt and 3/4 cup sugar in the boiling water. Add this mixture to the cold water. Put 1 tbsp pepper in the brine, and stir the ingredients. Refrigerate the mixture.

Add the fresh ham to the chilled liquid, submerging the ham completely. Balance a plate on top of the ham to weigh it down. Keep it chilled below 4.44 degrees C. Brine times are based on size of the meat. Pieces cut 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick will brine for 12 to 24 hours. Strips will brine for 6 to 12 hours. Tenderloin-size ham will brine for two to four days.

Rinse the ham off in clean water after the brining is complete. Discard the mixture. Refrigerate the ham until you are ready to cook it.


Brine your fresh ham in a cooler if your refrigerator space is limited. Put the meat and mixture directly in the cooler. Place ice in zipper bags, and add them to the cooler. Do not add ice directly to brine, because it will dilute the mixture. Add additional spices to your brine to suit your tastes. Use brown sugar or molasses to offset the saltiness of the brine. Replace some of the water with beer, wine, fruit juices or vegetable stock. Add soy sauce to create an Oriental flavour. Do not add additional salt to brined ham. Brined fresh ham cooks faster than unbrined ham.


Brining your fresh ham too long will ruin the flavour of your meat. Brine on a shorter time frame for your first attempt.

Things You'll Need

  • Kosher salt
  • Sugar
  • Pepper
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About the Author

Based in San Diego County, Calif., Monica Baylor has been writing since 1995. Her articles have appeared in the “Southwestern Sun” newspaper and The NU Herald online newspaper. Baylor holds Bachelor of Arts in digital journalism from National University.