Smoked Pulled Ham has been right under our noses, and you need it. Salty, sweet, and incredibly smoky for sandwiches, tacos, or straight to the mouth. Yes, it absolutely shreds into perfectly juicy strands.
Smoked pulled ham is essentially pulled pork. Instead of using a pork shoulder or pork butt, we’re using bone-in ham shanks. Yes, you too can enjoy this salty, shredded pile of pork along with me.
Think about all of the possibilities: sandwiches, tacos, maybe even burritos. Pile it up!
Why This Recipe Works
Incredibly flexible. Take one bite and ideas will rush forth, all of the possibilities this could go into. Sandwiches, eggs, burritos, don’t stop there!
Ham can be BBQ too. It’s fun to serve up something for the holidays off the smoker. Whip up a batch of your favorite barbecue sauce and serve with slaw and rolls.
Incredibly juicy and flavorful. This process of smoking and braising prevents the ham from drying out. Add your favorite BBQ spices and have fun!
How to Choose the Best Ham
You’ll likely be at the store wondering which is the right ham for this project? Good thing you’re here because I’m going to answer those.
Bone-In or Out?
Absolutely bone-in ham. The fat and muscle structure around the shank and butt allows for the meat to shred very well, also keeping it very moist. There are semi-boneless cuts out there, I have not tested these for pulled ham. Also, you end up with a perfectly roasted ham bone with all of the trimmings to make gravy, soup, or stock.
Spiral sliced or not?
Nope. Stick with an uncut ham. Pre-slicing seems like a neat trick to make it easier to shred, but it’s very unnecessary. It also doesn’t work (I’ve tried) as you’d think. Spiral sliced ham ends up splintering into smaller pieces on the outside, almost like shards. The inside is still very moist, but the consistency is incredibly off. Many of the slices also end up falling off prematurely, potentially exposing the inside and drying it out further. You’ll have edge-to-edge moist ham if you stick with uncut ham.
Shank or butt?
Buy the shank. Both will taste great of course, however, the butt has a more complicated bone structure which makes it tricker when shredding. The shank also happens to have more fat, which will keep the meat moist and allow it to shred easier.
Glazed or Not?
That’s really up to you. I’m recommending buying ham that is not glazed, which allows you to customize the flavors. I’ve tested it with a pre-glazed ham, only once, and it does work. Personally, I’d prefer to choose my own flavors.
Water or Natural Juices Added?
Avoid this, as the “water” can also be solutions with MSG and other chemicals. It’s a way for the manufacturers to inject hams to keep them moist for extended periods of time. The “natural juices” could be extra salt, additives, and even sometimes sugar. The concept is to bulk up the weight of the ham, increasing profit margins.
Here’s a handy guide to keep you informed on the labels:
|Ham||No water added and is at least 20.5% protein|
|Ham in natural juices||The protein level is around 18.5% protein, with 7-8% added water|
|Ham, water added||The protein level at least 17%, with 10% added water|
|Ham and water product||Add as much water as they want|
Step 1: Scoring and Seasoning
Using a sharp knife, score a cross-hatch pattern into the surface of the ham. No need to cut too deep, just about 1/4″. This opens up the surface for more texture, bark, and smoke flavor.
Rub the ham with yellow mustard on all sides, except for the flat-cut side. The mustard acts as a binder for the spices, which is necessary on the surface of the ham. Season the ham with your preferred spice rub. Let’s chat about that next!
Flavors for Smoked Pulled Ham
Preparing the ham for the smoker is pretty simple: Rub it down with yellow mustard and spices. The yellow mustard will impart very little actual flavor to the ham, gluing the spices to the surface itself.
Remember that ham has a lot of sodium, so be mindful of how much you add during the full process. I recommend either making your own seasoning blend or using one from a company that’s typically lower in sodium.
Here are my top 2 recommended seasonings for Smoked Pulled Ham:
- Signature Sweet & Smoky Rub – All-around great flavors for BBQ and especially pork. It’s not overly salty and will create a great crust on the outside.
- Smoky Southwest Dry Rub – Earthy, sweet, and savory. Another seasoning that isn’t salt-forward and tastes great after the ham is shredded.
Watch the Sodium
Ham is cured, which means it’s loaded with sodium already. Make sure whichever seasoning you choose, it’s also not a sodium-packed punch. Most BBQ rubs will have salt, but it’s good to be aware.
Step 2: Smoke the Ham in a Pan
Smoke the ham at 250° for a few hours, until the temp reaches about 155-165° internally.
Place the ham in a roasting pan if possible, which elevates the ham. This allows for more airflow and smoke, providing additional bark and flavor on the flat surface of the ham.
Pour 1 cup of water into the bottom of the pan to aid with moisture and collect any drippings. I’ve found this helps to mitigate the sugars from also burning in the pan.
- NOTE: If you do not have a roasting pan, this step can also be done directly on the grill grates. The roasting pan is especially important for the second phase, which involves indirectly braising the ham.
Step 3: Braise and Wrap
Once the ham reaches temperature, pour 12-16 ounces of room-temperature beer into the pan. Wrap tightly with heavy-duty foil.
Any liquid can work, but good beer pairs really well with smoked ham for hydration. It also reduces into a sweet liquid that can be used to mix into the shredded ham. Use broth, or apple juice as an alternative.
Turn up the heat on your smoker to 350°F and place the pan back inside, cooking for a few more hours until it registers around 195-205°F.
Step 4: Rest and Shred
Check to see that the ham pulls off easily and that it’s probe tender. Allow it to rest for 30 minutes before shredding. I prefer to use black latex gloves over the top of cotton safety gloves, and get my hands in there!
Cured meat is generally tougher, and more resilient than typical meat. Smoking most products such as bacon, pastrami, and ham will add flavor but the meat remains tougher. Pushing the ham past the safe zone towards the 205°F area with the beer braise helps to tenderize the meat, relaxing the muscles and allowing the fat to render further. This absolutely will shred.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can use any liquid, just make sure you use at least 12-14oz. I’d also recommend using broth over anything with too much sugar, such as juice.
One of two things, either you didn’t rest it long enough or you didn’t cook it long enough. The meat will relax a bit once it’s rested more, and the juices will also redistribute.
Hams can vary in size from 6-12 lb depending on the cut you purchase, so the times will greatly vary. My estimate is 7-8 hours, but it could be longer. If you’re worried about timing it perfectly, smoke the ham the day before your guests arrive. It’s perfect as leftovers.
Smoked Pulled Ham
Smoked Pulled Ham has been right under our noses, and you need it. Salty, sweet, and incredibly smoky for sandwiches, tacos, or straight to the mouth.
- Total Time: 7 hours 20 minutes
- Yield: 10–12 people 1x
- 1 ham shank, bone-in (about 7–10 lb)
- 1/4 cup yellow mustard, more as needed
- 1/2 cup BBQ seasoning (see recommendations)
- 1 bottle beer, 12 oz
- Roasting pan
- Heavy-duty foil
- Preheat your charcoal grill or smoker for indirect grilling, the temperature at 250°F
- Using a small knife, slice a crosshatch on all sides about 1/4″ deep, except the flat cut side. Coat the same sides you sliced with the mustard and the seasoning. Use more if needed.
- Place your ham in a roasting pan. Add a cup of water to the bottom of the pan, which helps with hydration. Place the roasting pan, uncovered, in the smoker. Allow it to smoke for about 3 hours, until it’s around 165°F.
- Once it reaches the target temperature, remove the roasting pan from the smoker. Pour in the bottle of beer around the ham, and seal the pan with heavy-duty foil.
- Turn up the heat in the smoker to 350°F. Place the pan back in the smoker and let it cook for another 3-4 hours.
- Check on the ham once it’s around 195-205°F. The meat should be pulling off the bone, and you can easily tug some ham off. Allow it to rest for about 30 minutes at room temperature, covered in foil.
- Shred the ham, and enjoy.
The time will vary depending on the size of the ham, so use your intuition. Don’t be afraid to cook it longer. If you think you don’t have enough time for your guests to eat, prepare it the day before.
- Prep Time: 20
- Cook Time: 7 hours
- Category: Pork
- Method: Smoking
- Cuisine: BBQ
Keywords: ham, smoked ham, pulled ham, smoked pull ham, pork, pulled pork, bbq, spicy, holiday ham
Hey boss when you say score the meat, is that the skin a leg ham normally comes with? Or do you remove the skin/rind completely?
I leave the skin/rind on. Hams that are not spiral cut typically don’t have much skin/rind, but we’re working with uncut hams. Take your sharp knife and cut a crosshatch into the surface all around. The skin/rind will smoke and crisp up nicely.
G’day mate, I’ve put some hams on today, 70pounds worth. It looks like it’s going to take a couple more hours than previously estimated. What are your thoughts of smoking to temp. Then refrigerating to do second cook tomorrow? Does that cause his issues with its potential ‘pullness’ do you think? Any help is appreciated!
Great question! The ham is already smoked, the point of smoking it (again) to pull is heating it up to a temperature where it will break down enough that it’ll fall apart. Either way, you’ll need to cook it to a high enough temperature to shred using the process. If you do smoke the first day, the second you could simply wrap the ham (with foil) and bring it up to a shredding temperature. Keep me posted!