Why smoke an uncured, “Green” Ham?

While ham is amazing served all year round, it’s one of the center pieces of a traditional Easter or Holiday dinner. This year, I’m going a little bit off the beaten track by smoking a ham with a delicious honey ginger glaze. Because when you combine the honey and ginger with a bit of maple syrup magic happens.
But first, let’s discuss why you would want to smoke a nitrate free ham. Ya’ll probably already know this about me, but only is it important to me to share delicious meals with my friends and family, but I also work hard to create healthy recipes. When I make ham, I make sure to purchase meats that are nitrate free; nitrates are a preservative used in processed meats, like bacon, jerky and lunch meats. Nitrates are a preservative, plain and simple and if you’re eliminating preservatives of all types, then cooking a green ham that is nitrate free (Ie, uncured and totally fresh!) is the way to go.  
how to smoke a nitrate free ham
If ya’ll have been following me for a while, you know I am a big believer in the the Paleo diet and cutting out junk ingredients. It is for this reason I originally wrote this recipe for my cookbook, Health Electric Smoker, because store bought ham is already cured and part of the curing process is NITRATES. And Nitrates are not good for you. In fact, if you want a book that will really change the way you think about food, food as medicine, and cutting out harmful ingredients that lead to illness and chronic inflammation (which leads to disease) then I HIGHLY recommend reading the book It Starts With Food, which is the precursor for the Whole 30 diet.
So, if you’ve been looking for a way to have your (nitrate free) ham and eat it too, well you’ve come to the right place!

Where do you find a nitrate free ham?

But, a Nitrate free ham doesn’t mean all our dreams of smoking ham are ruined! Nitrates are easy to stay away from — simply ask your butcher for a “fresh” or “green” ham; that means that it has not been cured and therefore is nitrate free. You also may have noticed that lots of brands have “nitrate free” on their labels, making it easier when you’re shopping! You will need to preorder a Green ham from your grocery store or butcher because this is not something they usually carry.
If you’d like a deep dive into the types of ham you will find at the grocery store, how to smoke a ham on your grill or Big Green Egg, and everything related to ham, this post is for you!
Instead of buying a ham that has already been cured, you will be curing your own ham. Now, this is only curing overnight so you will not be seeing the dark pink hue that you’ve come to expect from ham. Instead, your ham is going to look more like your pork chops do on the inside. But it will still taste amazing!
Thanks to curing overnight in a brown sugar, kosher salt and cayenne rub, and then finishing it with a honey ginger glaze, your ham will be nice and moist when you serve it for dinner and you will not miss all those ingredients you couldn’t pronounce from the already cured store bought ham.
And, if you don’t care about nitrates, then this glaze recipe still works well on any ham. Keep in mind that any ham you buy at the store is already cures so smoking it again will turn it into a double smoked ham and this glaze is amazing on any/all kinds of ham. 
If you give this recipe a try, I want to hear all about it! Tag me on Instagram or Facebook. Happy smoking! 
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nitrate free green ham recipe

Honey Ginger Smoked Ham (How to Smoke a Green Or Nitrate Free Ham)

  • Author: Robyn
  • Total Time: 9 hours, plus overnight brining
  • Yield: 25 1x


Smoking wood: Apple

Smoker temperature: 250 degrees


  • 1 15-pound “fresh” or green ham, bone-in, any “rind” removed


  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup kosher sea salt
  • 2 tbsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp. ground chipotle powder or cayenne
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika


  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 tbsp. fresh ground ginger
  • 2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt


  1. Score the fat on the ham to create a “cross hatch” so the rub can penetrate the meat.
  2. Spread the rub evenly over the ham.
  3. Refrigerate the ham overnight uncovered for 12 hours or more to allow it to cure in the spice rub.
  4. Make the glaze. Combine all ingredients in a pot and let simmer on medium for 20 minutes until the liquid has combined and reduced down. Reserve a small amount to be served with the ham after it is cooked. 
  5. Smoke the ham at 250 degrees, glazing every two hours, until the internal temperature has reached 160 degrees with an internal read thermometer (this will take at least 6 hours).
  6. Remove and wrap in foil and let rest in your oven (turned off) for 15 minutes or until ready to serve.
  7. Serve with remaining glaze and slice ham parallel to the ham bone or the flat end of the ham.


Pro tip: Smoked ham pairs wonderfully with homemade biscuits and Carolina mustard sauce for brunch or entertaining a crowd. Leftover ham can be repurposed into quiche, soup or even pot pie. And don’t throw out the ham bone! Save it for making stocks or adding flavor to collard greens and kale.

Pro Tip: When ordering a fresh ham from your butcher, specify the size you want, otherwise you may end up with a ham larger than you want/need.

  • Prep Time: 1 hour, plus overnight brining
  • Cook Time: 8 hours
  • Category: Grill, Smoke, Whole30 Recipes
  • Method: Smoke
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: honey ginger smoked ham, nitrate free ham, how to cook a green ham, green ham recipe, how to cure and smoke a green ham, nitrate free ham recipe

Did you like this smoked ham? Try out my other recipes:

Ham on the Big Green Egg

Maple Bourbon Smoked Salmon

Orange Oregano Maple Smoked Chicken Thighs