If you are looking for guidance on how to smoke a fresh ham, here is your complete guide! A “fresh ham” is also called a “green ham”, and is nitrate and preservative free.

 
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. Plus, there are many studies showing that Nitrates can cause cancer so it is a good idea to make your own “Fresh Ham” that is Nitrate Free.
 
 
 
How To Smoke Fresh Ham: The Complete Guide
 
 
 
 
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, Healthy 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 (that comes from Prague Powder, Ie, curing salts with Nitrates). 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 cured so smoking it again will turn it into a double smoked ham and this glaze is amazing on any/all kinds of ham.
 
 

Ingredients for Making this Smoked Fresh Ham

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

Rub:

  • 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

Glaze:

  • 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

 

How To Make this “Fresh” Ham

  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 145 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.

 

Tools needed:

Check out my Grilling Tools Page for all of my favorite grilling tools.

MEAT THERMOMETER: Temperature is everything in all cooking, not just grilling. If you aren’t using an instant-read thermometer in cooking, you are leaving everything up to chance. This can be dangerous but it’s also a great way to ruin a perfectly good piece of meat. The Thermapen is the gold standard in temperature used by chefs around the world. The Thermapen is known for it’s lightning-fast temperature reads of 3 seconds or less, with new and improved Thermapens giving 1-second temperature readings. If you can’t afford a Thermapen, you can still get super quick temperature reads at only $29 with the Thermopop.

 

Tips for Making:

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.

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.

FAQ

Smoking a fresh ham can be a great way to bring out its flavor and create a delicious, juicy meal. Here’s a step-by-step guide to smoking a fresh ham:

  1. Choose a fresh ham: Look for a fresh ham at your local butcher or grocery store. A fresh ham is different from a cured ham and has not been cured with salt, so it will not have the dark pink hue of a cured ham, instead it will be the color of pork- light pinkish.
  2. Wood Chips Recommendation: I opt for fruit woods such as apple or peach or milder woods like maple or oak so as to not overpower ham.
  3. Rest the ham: Once the ham has reached the desired internal temperature of 145 internal degrees, remove it from the smoker and let it rest for at least 10 minutesbefore slicing and serving.
  4. Enjoy: Serve the smoked ham with your favorite sides, such as mashed potatoes, green beans, and cornbread.

Note: The cooking time may vary depending on the size of the ham and the type of smoker you are using. Always use a meat thermometer to ensure the internal temperature reaches 160°F (71°C) for safety reasons, and note that outside cooking conditions such as the weather and the consistency of your smoker will affect your overall smoking time.

 
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)


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

Description

Smoking wood: Apple

Smoker temperature: 250 degrees


Ingredients

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

Rub:

  • 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

Glaze:

  • 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

Instructions

  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.

Notes

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

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

Ham on the Big Green Egg