Smoked Pulled Ham

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Once I started smoking my ham like I’m going to show you in this recipe, I have literally never bought one of those spiral cut hams with the sauce packet, again. Smoked pulled ham might ruin all other ham for you. This is not a spiral cut ham (make sure to read my ingredient notes, below). When you smoke and roast your ham low and slow, it takes it from tough and chewy to absolutely fall-off-the-bone soft. It shreds like pulled pork, and with my flavor rub and glaze, combined with the smoke, it’s packed with incredible flavor. If you don’t have a smoker, you can still make pulled ham in the oven as well! I’ve included oven instructions in the recipe card below.

I first had smoked pulled ham at a BBQ restaurant. I actually thought I was eating pulled pork at first because I had no idea ham could be cooked in a way that would allow it to shred like pork and be so flavorful. I knew I wanted to try it at home. For the basic process, I used the formula I learned from this article by Brad Prose. BBQ guru Susie Bulloch uses the same method with an apricot bbq glaze, which also sounds delicious. I wanted to make a quintessential Easter ham, so for my version I’m using a riff on our very popular Orange and Brown Sugar Glazed Ham. You can easily use this same method and switch up the rub and the glaze/sauce with any flavors you like. Once you learn to cook ham like this, you might not go back to any other method!

Ingredient Notes

  • Bone-in Portion Ham Shank (NOT spiral cut). Below you’ll see photos of 2 common styles of portion hams. The ham on the left in each photo is labeled “butt” and the one on the right is labeled “shank”. There are other cuts that are simply labeled “portion” or “picnic”. Any of those will work, but for best results and the most tender ham, you’ll want to look for a bone-in Shank. The shank has a little more fat so the meat is juicier and shreds more easily. I’ve tried with several cuts to test, and I’ve found this cut to be the best. It looks similar to the spiral cut ham, but it’s not sliced. This smoked pulled ham recipe will not work with a sliced ham, so don’t waste your time or money on that! Where I live, I find this brand at my local Winco. If you can’t find a shank, specifically, a butt portion will work as well, it just tends to be a bit leaner.
  • Mustard – you’ll use mustard to rub all over your ham. The mustard flavor does not come through on the finished ham, it acts as a binder to hold on your spices. I’ve also used a neutral oil in this step, but mustard is my preferred ingredient.
  • Brown Sugar – this is used in both the rub and the glaze.
  • Spices – this spice rub is in the same vein as a classic spiral cut glaze with a sweet and spicy combo including cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and cloves. If you’d like to do more of a bbq seasoning, simply use your favorite bbq rub, like this one, however I recommend omitting the salt as cured ham is already salty.
  • Apple Juice – I like to use apple juice for both spritzing in the smoker, and also in the roasting pan for moisture. If you forgot this on your shopping list, or prefer to not use juice, you can substitute water. Brad Prose uses room temperature beer for this step.
  • Oranges – you’ll use both the orange zest and juice in the glaze for this ham. I love the combination of orange and spices for a ham. It’s especially great for Easter time.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – my favorite apple cider vinegar for cooking is Bragg’s. This balances the sweetness of the rub and glaze by adding some acidity.
  • Spray Bottle – I like to keep a clean spray bottle for food use only. You’ll want this to spritz your ham during the smoking process.
  • Smoker – this recipe uses a smoker. I have not experimented with an oven roasted version, but I will one of these days!

Instructions

  1. Score and rub: After rinsing your ham with cool water to remove extra salty residue from the juices it’s packed in, you’ll pat dry and score your ham. This is simply using a sharp knife to score a diamond pattern on all sides, about 1.4″ deep. This allows the smoke and flavors to penetrate better into the meat. This step is hard to see in the beginning photos, but you’ll notice the scoring pattern when you look at the ham photos post-smoking. You’ll then rub the whole ham down with a thin layer of mustard.
  2. Seasoning Mix: The next step is to combine a mix of spices and seasonings. You’ll notice there’s zero salt in my rub. That’s because cured hams are often already packed with some salt and adding more might overdo it.
  3. Sprinkle all over: Cover the ham with the seasoning rub. As the mustard starts to absorb the spices, it will start to look wet all over.
  1. Smoke: Place in a 225° smoker. I don’t recommend increasing the smoke temperature because it risks your sugar burning. I like to use apple wood, but feel free to use your favorite. The ham needs to reach an internal temperature of between 155-165 degrees during this step, which for me takes about 6 hours for a 9-ish lb ham shank, but timing will vary due to size of your ham and other factors. Yours may take more or less.
  2. Spritz: I spray my ham with apple juice every 2-3 hours to keep the outside moist and avoid any burning of the spice rub. Again, you can spritz with any of the alternate liquids mentioned. Depending on the timing here, you may only spritz one time. (While your ham is smoking, you’ll mix your glaze so that is ready).
  3. Roast: After the target temperature is reached, you’ll transfer your ham to a roasting pan. I use my nice roasting pan and do the final roast in the oven, but you can absolutely use a disposable pan and do the final roast in your smoker as well.
  1. Add Liquid: Pour 1 1/2 cups apple juice, or desired liquid (could even be water) into your roasting pan. This will keep things moist and also prevent the sugar from burning on the bottom of your pan.
  2. Glaze: Reserve 2 tablespoons glaze mixture and set aside, and brush the rest over ham.
  3. Cover and Roast: Cover tightly with foil and put back either in smoker or in the oven, at 350°.
  1. Cook: Here’s the deal. Temperature AND texture are important when determining when your ham is done. You’ll want to roast your ham until it easily shreds and falls off the bone, like pulled pork or pot roast. As you insert a thermometer it should slide in and out super easily- this is a great cue as to what the texture is inside. When you tug at the meat it should easily pull off and shred. You’re aiming for a target temperature of about 200°-205°. This generally takes me around 3 hours of roasting for a 9lb shank. It helps to have a thermometer that stays in so you can monitor the temperature without opening it up too much. If that’s the case, I wouldn’t even check until at least 200° . Mine almost always needs to get to about 205°.
  2. Shred: Let your ham rest for 20-30 minutes before shredding. You’ll be tempted to just shred your pork right into your pan with the juices but don’t do that! Cured hams tend to have a high salt content so that will often overly salt your ham. Instead, transfer your ham to a large cutting board. Pull the meat off the bones and discard extra fat and bones (you may want to save your bones for soup!)
  3. Toss with extra sauce: This step is optional, I’d taste as you go! I love taking the little bit of reserved glaze we kept, and adding a couple tablespoons of apple (or orange) juice. I drizzle it over the final shredded ham and toss it all together before serving. You might like your ham as is right out of the pan, I love the extra punch of flavor and sweetness. Some of my family members like it without the extra drizzle. It’s just personal preference!

Leftover Suggestions

This ham will serve a lot! It’s great for a crowd, but if you’re making it just for a family dinner, chances are you’ll have some leftovers.

  • We LOVE making sandwiches. Try it on a toasted brioche bun with melted havarti cheese. Or make a ham and cheese panini on sourdough.
  • It’s fantastic in fried rice. This is my favorite classic fried rice, but the flavor profile of this ham lends itself really well to this breakfast fried rice.
  • Try crisping up the ham in a saute pan and then piling in tacos or wraps.
  • It’s terrific in an omelette.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make this ahead of time?

Since smoking meat can be a long process, it’s sometimes hard to do the same day you’d like to serve it, especially if it’s for a large group gathering and you’re nervous about timing. At minimum you’ll need at least 9 hours, and you’ll want to give yourself plenty of wiggle room. You can certainly end your ham early, and keep it well wrapped in foil in a warm oven. You can also cook entirely a day ahead of time. Store your shredded ham in an airtight container and see reheating instructions below.

How do I reheat this smoked ham?

For quick serve reheating of leftovers, you can zap it in the microwave or toss in a saute pan over medium heat to get it a little caramelized. If you’re reheating it in its entirety for serving, reserve the step where you toss with extra glaze until right before serving. Store shredded ham in an airtight container in the fridge. When ready to reheat, I like to place in a baking or roasting pan, drizzle with a small amount of liquid (water or broth…) just to avoid drying out, and cover with foil. Reheat at 350 degrees until hot- timing depends on the quantity, keep an eye on it. Toss with extra glaze before serving, if desired.

Can this be frozen?

Absolutely. Freeze in a vacuum sealed bag or airtight container. Thaw in fridge before using.

Can I switch up the flavor profile?

Absolutely. If you’d like to go more of a traditional bbq route, simply use your favorite bbq dry rub, and glaze with bbq sauce in place of the glaze. If you do this, I recommend omitting the salt from the dry rub.

I don’t have a smoker, can I make pulled ham in the oven?

I don’t have a smoker, can I make pulled ham in the oven? Yes! See recipe card below for details. It’s not exactly the same as a smoked ham, obviously, but you can make a tender pulled ham with great flavor in your oven as well. See details below!

Smoked Pulled Ham

5 from 8 votes
This smoked ham is full of flavor.  It easily shreds and is perfect for a holiday meal, or simple sandwiches!
Prep Time 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • Bone-in Ham Shank un-cut. Mine are usually about 9lbs
  • 2 tablespoons mustard or neutral oil

Dry Rub

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves

Glaze

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • grated zest of one medium orange
  • 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Additional Ingredients

  • apple juice about 2-3 cups

Instructions

  • Preheat your smoker to 225°.
  • Lightly rinse your ham with cool water to remove extra salty residue from the juices it's often packed in, and pat dry with paper towels. I like to place my ham on a foil-lined baking sheet for easy transfer at this point. 
  • Use a knife to score your ham in a criss-cross patter across all sides. 
  •  Rub ham on all sides with mustard.  A 9-ish pound shank usually uses about 2 tablespoons. 
  • Combine all spice rub ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Sprinkle rub on all sides of ham. 
  • Place ham in your smoker at 225°.  Place some apple juice in a clean spray bottle reserved for food purposes and spritz ham every 2-3 hours. 
  • Continue to smoke until internal temperature reaches 155-165°, this generally takes me about 6 hours.  
  • While ham is smoking, whisk together all glaze ingredients.  Reserve 2 tablespoons glaze in a small container and set aside.  The remaining glaze is what you will use in the following step.  
  • Transfer ham to a roasting pan.  Add 1 1/2 cups apple juice (or water) to pan.  Use a silicone brush to brush prepared glaze onto all sides of ham.  Cover tightly with foil and roast in oven, or back on your smoker, at 350° until ham reaches an internal temperature between 200-205°. This step usually takes an additional 3 hours or so for me for a 9lb shank.  The thermometer should slide in and out very easily and you should be able to pull a piece of ham off and have it shred nicely.  At this point, remove ham from oven, keep it covered, and rest for 20-30 minutes before shredding.
  • Remove ham from roasting pan and transfer to cutting board.  (Avoid shredding your ham in the pan juices because those are often overly salty.)  If your ham is falling apart and hard to transfer, that's a good thing!  Shred ham, discarding extra fat and bones. 
  • Add 1-2 tablespoons apple or orange juice to the small amount of glaze you reserved.  I like to drizzle this over the finished ham and toss it before serving.  Go by taste, you may not want to use all of it- it's personal preference! 

Notes

OVEN BAKED PULLED HAM 
If you don’t have a smoker, you can still make delicious, tender, flavorful pulled ham right in your oven.  Most ham shanks are cured and smoked already so you still get some of that great smoke flavor. I'm using the oven, but you could certainly use a large electric roaster, or a slow cooker if your ham is small enough to fit inside.  I haven't tested timing on the slow cooker, but I'd cook on the low setting and give yourself plenty of time. 
Follow the recipe as written but with these modifications:
Skip the rub step all together. 
Preheat oven to 300° 
Rinse your ham with cool water and pat dry with paper towels.  Score ham as directed in recipe and then place in a roasting pan. 
Pour 2-3 cups water (or apple juice) in pan.  The exact amount is not as important as the water reaching 1/4-1/2” up the sides of the pan. Heavy duty foil is helpful here. Cover pan tightly with foil. 
Roast until internal temperature reaches 200°-205°.  My 7lb shank was absolutely falling apart at 6 hours. I’d say 5-7 hours is a good target range for how long this will take depending on the size of your ham. If you have the time, let your ham sit, covered, for about 20 minutes out of the oven before you shred. 
Increase oven temp to 375°
Remove meat onto a cutting board, discard fat, bones (or save bones for soup). I also discard the pan drippings because they tend to be salty, but you can taste yours and decide if you want to keep any to drizzle over your meat. 
Place your shredded meat in a 9x13 pan.  Or if you have a particularly large ham and a smaller roasting pan, you can put them back in your clean roasting pan. 
At this point the ham is great as-is!  You could set some aside, or pile it on buns with bbq sauce.  
If you’d like to make my Orange Brown Sugar Version, whisk together all glaze ingredients and drizzle over meat (you can decide if you want to add it all, or just some. You may not use it all depending on the size of your ham). This will not create a traditionally sticky-glaze, it will simply add flavor. 
Toss together, cover pan with foil, and pop back in the oven for 15-20 minutes- until nice and hot and then serve. 
Keyword: ham, pulled ham, pulled pork, smoked ham
Author: Sara Wells
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Sara Wells
Meet The Author

Sara Wells

Sara Wells co-founded Our Best Bites in 2008. She is the author of three Bestselling Cook Books, Best Bites: 150 Family Favorite RecipesSavoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites, and 400 Calories or Less from Our Best Bites. Sara’s work has been featured in many local and national news outlets and publications such as Parenting MagazineBetter Homes & GardensFine CookingThe Rachel Ray Show and the New York Times.

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Questions & Reviews

  1. 5 stars
    Made the oven baked version of the recipe in the slow cooker and loved it. I specifically searched the hams to find a slightly smaller one and it fit just barely. Cooking took about 9-10 hours on low. Then the ham basically fell apart. Delicious.

  2. 5 stars
    Best ham EVER!! Made this for Easter dinner, everyone loved it! It was so good there were no leftovers so we made a second one the following weekend! Definitely going to be a staple! Delicious!!

  3. 5 stars
    Hands down the best ham I’ve ever had or made. It was so easy and so delicious. We did the oven method. Leftovers were just as good. I can’t believe I never knew about the shank cut. Thanks for sharing

  4. 5 stars
    This ham was excellent! We followed all the directions and kept it on the smoker the entire time as the oven was needed for other dishes.(loved that option!) I think our smoker ran a little hotter and the ham cooked about an hour faster but we checked every 1-2 hrs w an instant read thermometer and that worked great. The ham had a delicious flavor and was moist and shredded easily and fell off the bone. This will be our new holiday ham from here on out- thank you for a great recipe!!

  5. 5 stars
    Did this in the oven today for Easter and it was SO good. Can’t say enough of the flavor and tenderness of the meat.

  6. 5 stars
    We did this with the oven method and it turned out so good! I was amazed at how it wasn’t dry, and I preferred it to the spiral cut.. which always seems dry to me. The glaze was delicious! We did some with the glaze and some without for those in our family who didn’t like sweet meat, and it was the easiest way to have the best of both worlds. Amazing recipe!

  7. What the reasoning for moving it to the oven versus just raising the temperature and leaving it in the smoker? I know you said you could leave it in the smoker but why do you move yours to the over? Does it cook differently or you just like it less smoky, or does it cook faster?

    1. Just personal preference! The smoker keeps the smoke smell outside and frees up your oven, the oven saves your wood pellets and I like that I can easily monitor it and not run in and out of my house to the smoker haha. Whatever is easier for you!

  8. I’m hoping to try the oven version this weekend but I’m wondering…why did you skip the dry rub for the oven preparation?

    1. In a smoker, the low smoke will slowly render fat and turn the rub into a delicious bark that gets shredded up with the meat. In the oven, the fat and skin will just get soft and fall off and be discarded so it really doesn’t add much to the finished product!

  9. I want to try this in the oven! Question – do you place the ham on a rack in the roasting pan, or directly in the water/juice in the bottom of the pan?

    1. Either way. I don’t have a rack that fits in my roasting pan at the moment so I just put the ham directly in the pan. If you have a rack, feel free to use it!

  10. I don’t have a smoker. Do you have cooking suggestions for a slow cooker or instant pot?

    1. Yes, the instructions for the oven/slow cooker are included in the article and in the recipe card!