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Cooking with Fire

Cooking with Fire: Holiday Ham


The Thanksgiving holiday has come and gone, so we can all let out a collective sigh of relief and relax a little bit… *sigh*

Now, forget that relaxing moment and start the freak out, because Christmas is less than a month away. Whose idea was it to put two massive food-centric holidays so close to each other?

Fortunately, I have a recipe for a holiday ham that is so good that it will have your guests so post-dinner happy that they won’t even remember the hectic nature of the season. But we’re not going to just smoke and glaze a ham from the grocery store. This ham is going to take a little work and a little planning, because we’re going to buy a fresh ham from the butcher, brine it for eight days, and then finally smoke it to perfection.

This might sound like a bit of work, but considering the fact that the history of the ham aligns with a Germanic fertility god, I think this delectable dish deserves a little more attention.

There are several area butchers--I can immediately think of 6 or 7--who carry the literal whole hog, and can help you select the best cut for your meal. I like to look for a bone-in fresh whole ham.

I know what you’re thinking: a special trip to the butcher. Eight days of waiting. Germanic fertility gods. But believe me, this ham will be so good that you could skip the side dishes for this meal, if you wanted to.

In this Cooking with Fire podcast, Chef Tom and I break down exactly how to make a holiday ham at home from scratch.


Cured Smoked Ham


  • 1 (16 lb) fresh ham

For the brine:

  • 3 gallons of water
  • 4.5 cups kosher salt
  • 6 cups brown sugar
  • 6 tbsp pink salt
  • 3 tbsp red chile flakes

For the BBQ rub:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 2 tbsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder

For the glaze:

  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup prepared mustard
  • 2 tbsp BBQ rub
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Combine all brine ingredients in a food safe 5 gallon bucket. Whisk to dissolve. Add the ham to the solution. Weigh it down with plates to keep it submerged. Place in a refrigerator for 8 days, or a 1/2 day per pound. Remove from brine. Rinse well under cold water. Place on a cooling rack, over a sheet pan. Place the ham in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours to form the pellicle (surface will become tacky).

Remove the ham from the refrigerator. Preheat your smoker to 250ºF. Season the ham with the BBQ rub. Smoke for four hours. Increase the smokers temperature to 350ºF. Cook until an instant read thermometer inserted into the deep part of the meat reads 140ºF.

Mix together the glaze ingredients in a bowl. Place the ham in a foil pan and place the pan in the smoker. Brush the glaze on the ham. Continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 150ºF. Glaze again. Continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 155ºF. Remove from the grill and let rest 30 minutes before slicing.