Nothing says wow in the center of a dining table during the holidays like a glistening smoked ham.
With the traditional criss cross hatching into the fat, the slight caramelization of the glaze over the entire surface and that smoky flavor fills your nostrils as soon as you enter the same room.
What do we need to make a double smoked ham?
When it comes to selecting the right ham for you at the holidays, the choices seem endless.
It really comes down to how many people you wish to feed and how much you like leftovers.
I always opt for a half leg of ham that is already pre smoked. The reason being, I want to have a double smoked ham. So purchasing one that has already been cured and smoked once, I can now add my flavor profile to it.
The exact labeling will vary but look for words like ‘precooked’, ‘wet cured’, ‘smoked’ etc.
So long as it’s labelled “ham” it will have been cured with a nitrate solution and precooked.
The other thing I look for when selecting a half ham is, one with the hock still attached, this is what I consider to be a more traditional looking ham and a little more pleasing to my eye when I see one in the centre of the table.
Items that will help you cook these are:
- A smoker (I’m using a 22” Weber Smokey Mountain)
- Lump charcoal
- Various spices
- Wire rack and tray
- An instant-read thermometer (I’m using an M4 Thermapen)
- An internal temp and ambient temp probe thermometer (I’m using the Thermoworks Smoke X4)
- Boning or trimming knife
- Basting brush
Watch the video version of this recipe to see the entire process.
Prepping the Ham for smoking
Pre smoked hams will still have the skin on them, so we need to remove this to get that traditional glazed look you see in any type of holiday advertising.
If you have picked a ham that still has the hock, using a utility knife, slice around this, leaving some skin on the hock as a handle. Then slice down the sides, being careful not to slice through into the fat or meat.
Now using your fingers, you should be able to remove the skin by levering it off the leg, if not, use a knife to gentle help make a start and it should start peeling away quite easily.
Now using a sharp knife, I tend to use a utility knife or scalpel, make shallow parallel slices in the fat, then turn the leg around and make slices in the opposite direction as the first ones, thus creating a diamond pattern.
Just remember to only make shallow slices, the fat will shrink during the smoking stage, so if you cut too deep the diamonds of fat will most likely fall off.
Once you have created the diamond pattern all over, place the ham on a wire rack in a baking tray that has been lined with foil, this is purely to help with cleaning up afterwards as it does become messy with the glaze.
To glaze at the start or the end?
There are a lot of recipes out there that cater towards both.
Glazing from the start can produce some incredible results, it can also ruin the entire ham when the glaze burns.
For a glaze to caramelise, it needs sugar in it, a lot of sugar. So as the sugar heats up it can have a tendency to start burning. Since we will be smoking the ham for around three hours, that is a long time to have a heavy sugar glaze on anything.
That is why I recommend starting the caramelisation process with a squeeze of orange juice at the start of the cook, it’s enough to help create the sticky outer and also helps the smoke to adhere to the ham.
Then waiting until near the end of the smoke, to apply the actual glaze. This is going to give the glaze enough time to dissolve all of the sugars, caramelise over the ham and give it that deep shimmering look that we all expect when we think of a holiday ham.
By applying plenty of glaze, you will be guaranteed perfect results and a ham that will look and taste incredible.
So get it started, I’ll set up my smoker to be running at 275°F with lump charcoal. I’ll add some apple and cherry wood for smoke. Apple because it is a great flavor to pair with ham and cherry, as it actually creates the best color when trying to smoke anything.
When I know my smoker is stable in temp, I’ll place the ham inside on a wire rack in a tray that has been lined with foil, purely to help in the clean up at the end, and also add three cups of hot water in it.
I’ll insert an internal temperature probe and set it to 130°F, this is the temp we will start our glazing. The final temp of the ham internally needs to be at 140°F so this 10 degrees is plenty of time to apply multiple coats of glaze and have it set.
While the ham is smoking, we can make our glaze up. I tend to wait an hour or so before doing this, as we want to apply the glaze while it is warm to hot to our ham. If you do find it cool to touch when it’s time to apply it, warm it up a little over a low heat first.
Once the internal temp reaches 130°F, it is time to start gazing. I recommend using a silicone basting brush, they just tend to hold my liquid and therefore make applying rubs and glazes a lot easier. Give the ham a thick coat and put the lid of the smoker back on.
Set the internal temp probes alarm to 140°F now, once it reaches this temp it will time to take it off the heat.
Keep reapplying the glaze every 15 to 20 minutes now until it does reach the finished internal temp.
The overall smoking and glazing time will take around 3 to 3 and a half hours, depending on the size of your ham. Once it is ready and resting on a chopping board, I like to warm up the glaze again and give it one last thick coating while I allow the ham to rest for 5 minutes before slicing into it.
What’s in a glaze?
Sugar and lots of it.
It comes in all manner of types, like dry sugars, syrups and liquids like honey and maple syrup and most times a combination of all three.
From there you can add whatever ingredients you want to flavor your glaze to your liking. This one is aimed at the holiday season with hints of cinnamon and allspice that always make me feel like it’s the holidays when I smell or taste them.
With the high sugar content, whether it be in dry or liquid form, this is the very reason I recommend not glazing at the start of your cook. Not only will the glaze not penetrate your ham, it has more chance of burning if left for three hours in a smoker.
The point of a glaze is to caramelise and give another flavor profile, burnt is not a flavor profile, it is called ruined.
Making the glaze
This is a pretty easy glaze to make, as already noted we need sugar for the caramelisation to take effect and some added flavors.
So into a saucepan we’ll place ¾ of a cup of maple syrup (or honey if you wish), ¾ of a cup of brown sugar (make sure it is packed in tight to the measuring cup), 3 tbsp of Dijon mustard (you can substitute for another type of plain mustard if you wish), ¾ tsp of ground cinnamon and ½ tsp of allspice (you could also use nutmeg).
Now we just need to stir this over a medium heat for around 15 minutes until the sugars dissolve and it thickens up.
Keep on stirring constantly so the glaze doesn’t burn.
Once it has thickened and all of the sugars have dissolved, it’s ready to use.
Smoked ham can be used in so many different ways, from the centerpiece at a holiday feast, to sandwiches, chopped up for the best smoky pea and ham soup you’ve ever tasted.
Or on its own, I cannot help snacking on smoked glazed ham every time I walk past the fridge over the holiday season.
Double Smoked Ham with Maple-Mustard Glaze
- 7 lb half leg of ham
- 1 lemon juice only
- ¾ cup maple syrup or honey
- ¾ cup brown sugar tightly packed
- 3 tbsp Dijon mustard
- ¾ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp allspice or nutmeg
Smoked Glazed Ham:
- Remove the skin from the ham using a sharp knife. Slice around the hock and down the sides, you should be able to get your fingers under the skin and peel it gently off.
- Make shallow score marks in the fat about ¾ of an inch apart, then do the same in the opposite angle creating a diamond pattern.
- Set up your smoker for 275°F. I used a Weber Smoker Mountain and the minion method. Add a couple of chunks of smoking wood, I recommend using apple and cherry.
- Place the ham on a rack in a baking dish and squeeze over the juice the lemon.
- Add 3 cups of hot water to the baking dish and an internal temp probe into the ham and set it for 130°F. Put into the smoker
- Place all the glaze ingredients into a small saucepan and stir over a medium heat for around 15 minutes until the sugars have all dissolved and the glaze has thickened.
- Once the ham has reached 130°F, it’s time to start glazing. Keep applying the glaze every 15 to 20 minutes until the ham's internal temp reads 140°F.
- It's then ready to come off and cool for 5 minutes.
- Add one last thick coating of the glaze.
- Slice and enjoy.
- As a main protein for any holiday function.
- In sandwiches with your favorite fillings.
- Chopped up to make a delicious smoked pea and ham soup.
- Thinly sliced for a topping for homemade pizzas.