How Long to Cold Smoke a Ham: The Complete Guide

Cold smoking ham is an age-old process that infuses the meat with irresistible smoky flavor and preserves it for extended storage. But knowing exactly how long to cold smoke a ham can be tricky. Under-smoke it, and you won’t get the full flavor impact. Overdo it, and the ham can become unpleasantly bitter and acrid.

So what’s the sweet spot for smoking time when cold smoking a ham at home? Follow this complete guide to learn everything you need to nail the perfect smoked ham every time

What is Cold Smoking?

Unlike hot smoking where the meat cooks while smoking, cold smoking happens at temperatures under 100°F. This preserves the ham’s texture while imparting smoky flavor into the meat.

Proper cold smoking keeps the ham’s internal temperature below 40°F. At this range the smoke reacts with the meat to deposit flavor while inhibiting bacterial growth for preservation.

Factors that Affect Cold Smoking Times

When cold smoking a store-bought or cured ham at home, the optimum smoking time depends on several factors:

  • Size of the Ham – A small 5 lb ham needs less time than a 15 lb behemoth.

  • Bone-In or Boneless – Bone-in hams need longer smoking times than boneless. The bones partially shield the inner meat from smoke absorption.

  • Curing Method – Hams cured with a dry rub or brine tend to absorb smoke faster.

  • Desired Smokiness – If you like intense smoky flavor, smoke longer. For milder smoke flavor, reduce the time.

  • Smoker Temperature – Keep temperatures as close to 40°F as possible. Higher heat = shorter smoke times.

  • Wood Type – Milder fruit woods require longer than more robust hickory or mesquite.

Now let’s look at general smoking times based on ham sizes and types.

Cold Smoking Times for Hams

Bone-In Hams

  • 5 to 7 lb ham – 10 to 15 hours
  • 10 to 12 lb ham – 18 to 24 hours
  • 15 to 18 lb ham – 24 to 36 hours

Boneless Hams

  • 3 to 5 lb ham – 6 to 12 hours
  • 5 to 7 lb ham – 12 to 18 hours
  • 10 to 14 lb ham – 18 to 36 hours

These time ranges provide a general guideline. Start checking smaller hams after 6 hours of cold smoking. Check larger hams around 12 hours into the process.

Monitor how the level of smokiness develops in the ham and adjust accordingly. You can always add more smoke time if needed but you can’t undo over-smoking.

Step-by-Step Guide to Cold Smoking a Ham

Follow this simple process for amazing smoked ham made right at home:

1. Choose Fresh or Cured Ham

Select a high-quality fresh ham or cured ham from the store. Fresh hams must be cured before smoking. Cured hams are ready to start the smoking process.

For curing, use a basic brine, dry rub, or immersion curing method. Cure for 5-7 days for a small ham and 7-10 days for a large one.

2. Prepare the Ham

Trim excess skin and surface fat after curing. Soak brined hams briefly to remove excess saltiness. Rinse and thoroughly pat dry.

Apply a seasoning rub if desired. Let the ham sit overnight in the fridge to form a dry exterior layer called a pellicle.

3. Set Up the Smoker

Assemble the smoker and prep the chamber for cold smoking. Keep the temperature between 70 – 90°F throughout the process.

Add your smoke wood – try hickory, apple, mesquite, or maple. Soak wood chips to lower combustion.

4. Smoke the Ham

Place ham on racks in the smoker chamber. Maintain consistent cool temperatures and thin blue smoke throughout the smoking time.

Replenish smoke wood as needed to generate continuous smoke. Monitor for smokiness and doneness.

5. Finish and Store the Ham

When desired smoky flavor is reached, remove ham from the smoker. Wrap tightly in butcher paper and refrigerate.

The ham keeps for 2-4 weeks refrigerated. Slice and enjoy the scrumptious smoked ham on sandwiches, pizzas, breakfast plates and more!

Helpful Tips for Cold Smoking Hams

Follow these handy tips for ensuring smoking success:

  • Maintain temperatures between 40 – 80°F for proper cold smoking.

  • Check for doneness early and often. It’s easy to over-smoke.

  • Use an electric smoker or smoke generator to cold smoke if needed.

  • Minimize drafts and openings to hold the cold smoke.

  • Let the ham rest overnight after smoking for the flavor to permeate.

  • Slice off the desired portion. Freeze remainder for longer storage.

  • Enjoy the ham within 2 weeks for optimal quality and flavor.

Serving Up Smoked Ham Deliciousness

A properly cold smoked ham is incredibly versatile. Enjoy your smoked ham royalty in all kinds of tasty ways:

  • Feature slices in breakfast sandwiches, omelets and hash.

  • Dice smoked ham for salads, pasta dishes, and pizza toppings.

  • Pair smoked ham with melons, pineapple, peaches or berries for a unique appetizer.

  • Make smoked ham and potato soup or hearty 15-bean ham soup with the bone and leftovers.

  • Bake a glazed smoked ham studded with cloves for a spectacular holiday centerpiece.

So choose your favorite ham, grab your smoker, and get ready to wow your taste buds with deliciously smoky, slow-cured flavor. With the proper technique and smoking times, you can easily achieve competition-caliber smoked ham completely made at home. Give cold smoking a try and see for yourself!

Beginners Introduction to Cold Smoking Meat & Food


How long should you cold smoke a ham?

Hang the ham in the smoker or place it on one of the racks. Cold smoke the ham at no more than 100°F for 12 hours. (Cold-smoking infuses the meat with smoke flavor without cooking the meat.)

How long to smoke a precooked ham at 225?

Once your grill or smoker reaches a temperature of 225, place the ham on the grate. If the Ham is fully cooked, smoke for one hour. How long does it take to smoke a ham that’s uncooked? If it’s been brined and prepared, expect to smoke for up to 7 hours, until it reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

How to smoke a precooked ham on a pellet grill?

Place the ham on a foil-lined cooking tray, set it on the smoker rack and close the smoker. Check the ham with a meat thermometer approximately once per hour; you’re done when it hits 175ºF. Most hams will take approximately four to six hours to get there — and, along the way, they’ll acquire that taste you’re craving!

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