How to Smoke a Ham: The Best Meat for Beginners

Everyone likes a good ham, but not everyone is willing to take it to the next level. Learning how to smoke a ham is the perfect way to bring out some amazing flavors! My dad loves to play around with recipes, and he made a smoked ham last year on the grill. Not only was it the best ham I had ever had, but it was also incredibly easy. But it is something that takes a lot of time and patience. Most people think using a smoker is difficult, but it is actually a straightforward process once you understand what you’re doing.

I was dying to try this out myself, and I’m assuming you are too. But before anyone begins smoking meat, it is important to learn more about what you might need for the whole process. Smoking meat, in general, is an interesting technique for cooking. Needless to say, this will be the tastiest thing we can learn to do, and ham is the perfect place to start for beginners.

Understanding Different Types of Smokers

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There are about eight different types of smokers on the market and countless different brands for each one. I’m not going to get into all the details of each one, but I do want to give you a basic rundown. Chances are you already have a smoker, or you have done your research on different types of smokers. You will have to figure out what fits your needs the best.

Different styles of smokers

Keep in mind that even though there are many different kinds of smokers, you may not need to buy one at all. It is only something you should consider if you are interested in using your smoker at least a few times a year. Many people simply use grills, which is what my dad does now and it gets the job done and always has amazing flavor. But to give you an idea of the different kinds of smokers on the market, here are some fantastic options.

Types of smokers include:

  • Vertical water smokers
  • Horizon offset smokers
  • Box smokers
  • Electric smokers
  • Drum smokers
  • Smoker ovens
  • Kamado grills
  • Pellet grills

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Beginners typically like to focus on the vertical water smoker, smoker ovens, or electric smokers. They are fairly inexpensive and very easy to use. But when it comes to ham, use what you have! Hams are usually precooked or smoked. So you don’t have to worry as much about getting them to a certain temperature for a certain amount of time. The main focus when learning how to smoke a ham is getting the right flavor and retaining the moisture.

Preparing to Smoke a Ham

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There are a few basic things you need to keep in mind when learning how to smoke a ham. Honestly, once you’ve done it once, you probably won’t ever need a recipe again. Playing around with flavors and recipes will be your new favorite thing! But learning the basics is very important if you are a novice like me.

Choosing the perfect ham

When picking your ham, you need to think about the number of people you are feeding. It will take around 15 to 20 minutes per pound of meat. An 8 to 10-pound ham is a good size for around 10 to 12 people. It will also take about 3 to 4 hours to prepare. When choosing your ham, go for the bone-in variety. That will also add fantastic flavor. By the time you finish cooking, it will be ready to fall off the bone, so you will hardly need to carve it.

Preparing your smoker

Once you have prepared your meat and it’s time to get your smoker going. It is important to get it to the appropriate temperature before you start cooking. It’s also a good idea to get your meat to room temperature before throwing it in. Make sure there is a thermometer on either side of your smoker. That is an especially good idea if you have a horizontal offset smoker, grill, or any style of smoker that has coals on one side of the unit and the meat on the other side.

Get Creative with Flavors

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So there are a lot of different recommendations across the internet for which wood you should use to smoke your ham. The variety might overwhelm someone who is new to the smoking game. But never fear! There is no wrong choice. A lot of people like to experiment with different tastes, and it’s definitely something you should consider. It’s extremely hard to go wrong with ham because, at the end of the day, it’s a big, versatile piece of meat.Applewood or cherry are great options to use on pretty much any type of meat. So if you’re looking for a safe flavor option, these are fantastic. But you could also consider a sweet hint of maple wood, which would complement the meat nicely if you decide to use a brown sugar glaze. Hickory is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a stronger flavor that borders on a smokey bacon taste.Mixing different woods together could give the ham a bold and complex flavor. But it’s entirely up to you! Experimentation is a great way to approach smoking once you have a good understanding of the basics. If you’re interested in checking out favorite meat and wood pairings, there are some great resources.

Tips and Tricks on How to Smoke a Ham

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No matter what meat you decide to smoke, there are a few basic tips that will help. Once you get these under control, it will be easy sailing — kind of like cooking something in a giant crock pot. Overall, this is just as easy and only requires a little more maintenance when it comes to the temperature.

Tips on your woodchips

I know that we already covered the flavor aspect of adding wood chips to your smoker. But you should also consider soaking the woodchips before you add them. Soak chips for half an hour or wood chunks for one hour. That will keep them from burning up too quickly. It will also help them maintain a steady amount of smoke, rather than creating too much at one time. Now, this isn’t something that everyone recommends, and some people prefer not to. But most people consider it to be a good tip for beginners who are learning how to smoke a ham, especially if you are using a wood that has a strong flavor.

Put the drip pan to use

Before putting your meat in the smoker, you will want to make sure that you have a drip pan in place. You will need to add about a half inch of liquid to this pan. Most people who are learning how to smoke a ham will use water. But this is a fantastic opportunity to add another hint of flavor to your meat. Consider adding apple juice to the drip pan for some sweetness! But this is another place you could get creative, so there is no limit to your options! For many different types of meat, people like to try anything from fruit juice to beer. So it is certainly an area for creativity.


When cooking anything in a smoker, you will want to heat it up to about 225 to 250 degrees. When learning how to smoke a ham, I would absolutely recommend getting to this temperature and staying there. The main goal is consistency. You will need to maintain about 250 degrees the whole time. That was why we recommend keeping a thermometer on either side of your smoker visible from the exterior.

For many different smokers, like an electric smoker, you won’t have to worry about the temperature much because it will maintain itself. But if you are using a grill, it could be a bit trickier.

When it finishes, the ham should be at about 140 degrees internally. That is the lowest temperature to shoot for, but it could be up to 170 degrees. It just depends how long you plan to smoke the ham.


To start, you want your smoker to already be up to temp. Then place your ham over the drip pan, cut-side down. If you plan to use a dry or wet rub, do it in the beginning, before you put it in the smoker. Leave it there for about three to four hours. Make sure to check the temperature and the wood in intervals. There isn’t much work involved; it is just a matter of simple maintenance.If you are planning to add a sauce or glaze, it would be best to add it towards the end of the process. Add it when you believe you have about a half an hour left before you pull your ham from the smoker. When it’s time, take the ham out to coat it in the sauce. Make sure to close the smoker while you are working on it. Then you won’t lose much crucial heat in the process.Once it’s glazed, pop it back on and cook for the remaining amount of time or until the ham is at the appropriate temperature. Keep in mind that you should have calculated about 15 to 20 minutes per pound of meat.

Do not open your smoker constantly

The title of this section is blunt and to the point, because you don’t want to make this rookie mistake. That is, don’t check the meat constantly. Don’t bother flipping your ham. There is no point, and you are merely messing up the consistency of the temperature by checking the ham all the time. If you want to know how to smoke a ham, this is absolutely crucial.Leave it be. Remain patient. Let the smoker do its work. It will be wonderful, I promise.Now, this recommendation is only for those of you who are tempted to check on the meat constantly. If you think you are running low on hot coals, wood, or you want to glaze the ham at the end, feel free to get in there. Those are all important. Otherwise, you just need to remember that the ham is being cooked evenly using hot smoke. It shouldn’t be over the fire, and it should be cooking evenly the whole way around.

Learning How to Smoke a Ham: The Tastiest Lesson of Your Life

smoked ham

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If you’re going to start smoking meat, ham is a great place to start. Learning how to smoke a ham will pretty much always be satisfying. You just need to make sure there is enough water in the drip pan, and the temperature is just right. Other than that, it just comes down to playing around with different flavors and seeing what works. You can try different types of woods, using juice instead of water, adding a glaze at the end, or using any kind of wet or dry rub your heart desires. There are plenty of recipes out there, and lots of people are willing to show you their whole process.

I know I didn’t give you any recipes. When it comes to food, everyone has a different taste. My dad made his ham with a dry rub he whipped together himself and nothing else. He just rubbed it down, wrapped it in tin foil, and let it smoke for a few hours. So I would recommend finding a recipe you think sounds good. The purpose of this post is to help guide you as you learn how to smoke a ham. It isn’t complicated; it’s just a long process. But it will absolutely be worth it in the end!

If you thought this was a helpful guide on how to smoke a ham, let us know! And if you’re a little more experienced, feel free to share your favorite tips and tricks below!

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