Being Jewish, I didn’t eat much ham while growing up. My family didn’t keep kosher – nor do I as an adult. But while we ate bacon and plenty of Chinese food that contained pork, ham just wasn’t on our radar. We are people of the brisket; which includes corned beef and pastrami.
I believe it was in my late teens – working a part-time job in the kitchen of a retirement home that included a meal with each shift – that I discovered a fondness for dinner ham; as opposed to the lunch-meat version found on countless slices of white bread with cheese and mayo. I still am not that into the latter; although every once in a while, I’ll have a ham sandwich or hoagie with mustard. But over the years, my taste for freshly baked or barbecued ham has remained and perhaps grown a bit. It’s usually on the menu for Easter dinner at my in-law’s home, but we weren’t going this year and I started yearning for a good ham.
At some point after I started smoking meat in my backyard and seeing how-to videos on smoking a pre-cooked ham, I decided to try it myself. It took a few years, but I finally felt inspired to do it last week, with that craving gnawing at me.
The pre-cooked, bone-in ham I bought at our local supermarket was also already smoked. But bringing it to serving temperature over the low heat of a smoker while hitting it with smoke can add an extra layer of flavor to the meat. My Weber Smokey Mountain remained between 220-235 for the entire time the ham was on there.
Before getting to that point, I scored the ham’s outer layer and covered it with a mixture of maple syrup and Dijon mustard.
When the meat was ready to go on the smoker, it was time to begin the process of bringing that up to temperature. I had poured a pile of lump charcoal into the smoker’s bottom level the previous evening and used a chimney starter to get a smaller batch fully heated before dumping that on to the larger pile. It was then just a matter of putting the upper level into place, setting the vents to the desired positions, filling the water pan that doubles as a grease catcher and steam provider, and waiting until the internal temperature approached 225 (F).
At that point, I put the ham on the smoker and threw a nice-sized chunk of hickory on to the charcoal. Now it was time to wait. I had no idea how long it would take for the ham to get to the 140-145 internal temperature I was looking for. The various instructional videos I watched had a wide array of cooking times.
But my ham was fairly small at about 7.5 pounds, so I was optimistic that this wouldn’t be an all-day affair. I turned out to be correct. Within a couple hours, the meat temperature had gone up enough for me to prepare a glaze that would be brushed on the ham when it was within 10-15 degrees of being finished.
I forgot to take photos of the glaze preparation and application, but it turned out to be not quite as thick as I had hoped. I may have been better off making it sooner to give it more time to thicken; although the recipe I followed recommended waiting until it was getting close to the point of putting it on the ham. While I liked the taste of the glaze, I will probably try a different recipe next time. A thick glaze that clings to the meat can add a lot of body and flavor to the ham’s outer crust. I only got a little of that impact because of how thin this glaze was.
In any case, it did add some flavor and we had leftover glaze to spoon on to the meat at the dinner table.
I took the ham off the smoker when it reached 144 degrees and let it rest under a foil tent for about an hour and a half. That long of a resting period isn’t necessary, but the meat was done a little quicker than expected – three hours from the time I put it on the smoker – and we weren’t ready to eat that early.
When I finally sliced into the ham and tried a little end piece, I was ecstatic with the result. The flavor was divine, with the hickory and apple-wood smoke I added front and center. It was also extremely tender and juicy.
I served it with green beans and my mother-in-law’s wonderful creamed corn recipe, which includes bacon and onions. This was a sensational dinner.
Later that night, my wife and I had to go out on an errand and decided to make an ice cream stop on the way home. Barone’s ice cream and water ice stand in Drexel Hill, PA, is a dandy. My vanilla malt was as good as I could have hoped for. Each ingredient was perfectly measured. This was a truly memorable shake. My wife also seemed happy with her soft-serve twist cone.
Yes indeed; it was one fine day of eating. And now that I know how easy it is to smoke a pre-cooked ham, I see myself taking up the endeavor again before too long.