How to Brine a Ham Like Alton Brown for Perfect Flavor Every Time

As any foodie knows Alton Brown is a legendary figure when it comes to cooking knowledge and technique. His show Good Eats broke down culinary science in an engaging way. So when Alton Brown shares how he brines ham, home cooks everywhere take note.

I’ll walk through Alton’s step-by-step method for brining ham yourself at home. With his expertise you’ll learn exactly how long to brine, what ingredients to use, and how to ensure delicious results. Let’s unlock the secrets to incredible flavor!

Why Brine Ham Like Alton Brown?

Alton Brown strongly prefers brined hams over plain ones. The brining process:

  • Keeps the meat incredibly juicy and moist.

  • Allows flavorings to deeply penetrate the ham

  • Provides control over the final seasoning.

  • Adds versatility as a base for glazes.

  • Can be done easily at home without curing salts.

By brining your own ham instead of buying a pre-brined one, you can customize flavors to your taste and avoid unnecessary ingredients.

Alton’s Step-By-Step Brining Method

Alton outlines his ideal brine recipe and process in multiple places, including his City Ham recipe. Here are the key steps:

1. Make the Brine

Alton likes a straightforward brine of:

  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Any desired aromatics like peppercorns, bay leaves, etc.

Combine everything until the salt and sugar fully dissolve. Cool in the fridge before using.

2. Submerge the Ham

Place your raw, bone-in fresh ham in a container large enough to fully submerge it in the brine. Pour the brine over the ham until it’s completely covered.

If needed, weigh down the ham with a plate to keep it fully immersed. Cover and refrigerate.

3. Brine for 5-7 Days

Let your ham brine for 5-7 full days. Alton mentions this timing ensures full penetration into the thickest part of the meat. The brine will do its work infusing flavor and moisture.

4. Remove and Rinse

After 5-7 days, remove the ham from the brine and rinse it very thoroughly under cool water. This removes excess surface salt.

5. Cook as Desired

Your ham is now ready to be cooked using any method you prefer! Alton likes to bake his city hams low and slow.

The brining means the ham will turn out incredibly juicy, seasoned to the center with no dry spots.

Handy Brining Tips from Alton

Over his long cooking career, Alton Brown has perfected the art of brining. Here are some of his top tips:

  • Choose a quality fresh ham preferably with the leg bone still in. The bone protects moisture. Skin on is fine too.

  • Trim any excess fat before brining to prevent a greasy finished ham.

  • Weigh down your ham to keep it fully submerged in the brine, using a plate with cans or jars.

  • Always brine in the refrigerator, between 34-40°F. Colder slows the process.

  • Use a food-safe bucket or large stockpot for brining very large hams.

  • Don’t reuse brine as it can carry bacteria. Make fresh each time.

  • Rinse well after brining, including any cavities or crevices.

  • Cook brined ham to 140°F minimum for food safety.

Adapting Alton’s Recipe for Your Ham

While Alton’s brine is beautifully simple, you can adapt it as desired:

  • Use the same 1 cup salt to 1 gallon water ratio, but add other aromatics like garlic, onions, spices, etc.

  • Replace some salt with sugar for a sweeter brine up to 1/2 cup total sweetener.

  • Add citrus juices or wines for extra dimension.

  • Play with spice blends like cinnamon-star anise for the holidays or cajun seasoning.

  • For a smaller ham, reduce brine ingredients proportionally to fit your container.

Have fun making the brine your own! Just keep salt at least 1/2 cup per gallon and brine time 5 days minimum.

Try Alton’s Famous City Ham Recipe After Brining

Once your ham is brined, try cooking it using Alton Brown’s beloved city ham recipe for an incredible baked ham.

The sugar-cookie crusted, bourbon-spiked exterior provides flavor contrasts with the ultra juicy, salty ham. It’s a showstopper!

So embrace your inner Alton Brown, grab a fresh ham, and get brining. In just over a week, you’ll unlock incredible depth of flavor in your holiday ham. It takes some patience but is so worth the wait. I hope these tips help you channel your inner food science geek. Happy brining!

Alton Brown Makes Honey Brined Smoked Turkey | Good Eats: The Return with Alton Brown | Food Network


How long can a ham stay in brine?

Submerse the ham in the brine and let it hang out for 3 days in the refrigerator. (It’s a plan-ahead but soooooooooooooo worth it!)

Can you brine a precooked ham?

Tips for a Better Brined Ham It’s critical to use an unseasoned fully cooked ham. Many brands of fully-cooked and spiral-cut hams are injected with a salt and sugar solution to make it juicier and “extra-tender.” There’s no need to brine meat that’s already been seasoned because it turns out too salty.

What should I soak my ham in?

It may sound complicated, but all you need to do is immerse the ham in cold water, ensuring that it’s all sitting below the water level.

What is ham brine made of?

Place kosher salt, brown sugar, pink salt, and pickling spice in a container large enough to hold brine and ham. Bring 2 quarts water to a boil and pour over brine ingredients; whisk to dissolve. Pour in 1 gallon fresh cold water to cool down mixture.

How do you cook a Ham in a roasting pan?

Watch how to make this recipe. Remove ham from bag, rinse and drain thoroughly. Place ham, cut side down, in a roasting pan. Using a small paring knife or clean utility knife set to the smallest blade setting, score the ham from bottom to top, spiraling clockwise as you cut.

How much nitrite do I need to brine a ham?

For a home-cured ham, it is recommended to do 120PPM. For brining, the 1 teaspoon per 5 pounds of meat cannot be used. How much you are going to inject per pound of meat will depend on how much nitrite you are going to need per gallon. You pick your pump rate depending on how long the ham will be cured in the brine.

How long do you cook a Ham at 130 degrees?

(Don’t worry too much about precision here.) Tent the ham with heave duty foil, insert a thermometer, and cook for 3 to 4 hours or until the internal temperature at the deepest part of the meat registers 130 degrees F. Remove and use tongs to pull away the diamonds of skin and any sheets of fat that come off with them.

Are hams mass produced?

The problem with hams that are mass produced is that they are machine-injected using a quick-curing ham brine, and then they are baked in large smoker-ovens. The quality of these hams is not what you will get when you do it yourself. Your home-cured ham will be much better tasting.

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