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Smoked Pulled Ham

by Brad Prose

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. Read along and let’s discuss the process.

It’s Pulled Pork, but Ham

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!

Shredding ham isn’t a new thing. I discovered the idea when I was early in my quest for new BBQ recipes. You’re lucky, back in my day we didn’t have as many websites to help us along. I referred to Smoking Meat Forums mostly, which is where this idea of smoked pulled ham was first revealed to me. They hadn’t quite figured it out, so it was my turn to attempt. I’ve been working on perfecting this for a few years now and having made it twice again recently, I decided it was time to finally write about it.

Shredding all of the smoked pulled ham.


Choosing the Right 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 incredible 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 an 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:

HamNo water added and is at least 20.5% protein
Ham in natural juicesThe protein level is around 18.5% protein, with 7-8% added water
Ham, water addedThe protein level at least 17%, with 10% added water
Ham and water productAdd as much water as they want

Spice up your 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.

My recommendation is to look at some of the BBQ blends from Spiceology. Their seasonings are extremely fresh and bold, so you don’t have to pile on the spices as you would from many other brands. Most of their blends are also pretty low in sodium compared to what you’ll find, so that’s also a plus. More flavor, less salt.

Here are my top 3 recommended seasonings for Smoked Pulled Ham:

  1. Smoked Chipotle Mezcal. This is my favorite choice. Smoky and spicy chipotle is paired with lots of citrus and herbs, contrasting the sweeter flavors of ham.
  2. Achiote Blend. Using this seasoning reminds me of Al Pastor. This blend will remind you of grilled pork tacos, a perfect compliment to the smoked pork. You might as well grill up some pineapple and serve.
  3. Korean BBQ Blend. Kick up the ham with this fun twist of spices and funk. This seasoning has sesame seeds as well, helping you create an epic crust on the outside of the ham.

Remember that ham has a lot of sodium, so be mindful of how much you add during the full process.

Smoking and Braising

Cooking ham with the combination of slow smoke and braising produces the flavors we desire, and the tenderness we need.

Don’t worry, we won’t submerge the ham in a pot of liquid. One beer is sacrificed for this ham, and that’s it.

  1. Set your smoker up for 250°F.
  2. Rub the ham with yellow mustard on all sides, except for the flat cut side. This allows for the seasoning to stick. Season the ham with whatever BBQ rub or spice combination that you choose.
  3. Smoke the ham for a few hours until it’s at least 165°F. Place a small pan with some water in the smoker for extra moisture if the air is dry, especially during colder months. Moisture will help it shred.
  4. Pull the ham out and place it in a foil pan or roasting pan. Add in 1 bottle of beer, and wrap with heavy-duty foil. Make sure the foil is not hugging the ham closely.
  5. 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.
  6. Check to see that the ham pulls off easily, and that it’s probe tender. Allow it to rest 30 minutes before shredding.
About to pull the ham bone out for shredding.

Does it really shred?

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

Can I substitute the beer?

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.

Mine isn’t shredding, what’s wrong?

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.

How long is it supposed to take?

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.

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Shredding all of the smoked pulled ham.

Smoked Pulled Ham


  • Author: Brad Prose
  • Total Time: 7 hours 20 minutes
  • Yield: 1012 people 1x

Description

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.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 ham shank, bone-in (about 710 lb)
  • 1/4 cup yellow mustard, more as needed
  • 1/2 cup BBQ seasoning (see recommendations)
  • 1 bottle beer, 12 oz

Equipment

  • Roasting pan or foil pan
  • Heavy-duty foil

 


Instructions

  1. Preheat your charcoal grill or smoker for indirect grilling, temperature at 250°F
  2. 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.
  3. Place your ham in the smoker, directly on the grates.  Add a small pan of water if you feel the air is dry, this will help it to shred later. Allow it to smoke for about 3 hours, until it’s around 165°F.
  4. Carefully remove the ham and place it in a foil pan, or a roasting pan. Pour in the bottle of beer around the ham, and seal the pan with heavy-duty foil. Make sure the foil isn’t hugging the ham.
  5. Turn up the heat in the smoker to 350°F. Place the pan back in the grill and let it cook for another 3-4 hours.
  6. 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.
  7. Shred the ham, and enjoy.

Notes

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

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