Adventures in HAM, part I

Last year I made pulled pork for the First Annual 4th of July Geeknik Peeknik. Well, I made my own version of it in any event. Instead of a shoulder cut, I used a ham that had become the butt of a long running joke about finding places large enough to store my over-sized HAM which had been taking up quite a bit of space in my freezer for several months. It seemed as good a way as any to feed a crowd (and to finally be rid of it!). Being a 4th of July Picnic – BBQ seemed to be an obvious choice, so I started Googling just how to go about doing such a thing. After some research I discovered that there were several problems with this plan:

  1. I have no idea how to BBQ or slow cook anything
  2. I have neither a grill nor a smoker
  3. Apparently people generally don’t BBQ Hams
  4. There are about 17,987,983,897 recipes for any kind of BBQ/Slow cooked/Pulled meat, and all of them claim to be the end-all be-all of BBQ.

So I decided to make it up as I went along, combing what I thought were the best & yummiest sounding pieces from several recipes, and created what I like to refer to as Pulled Ham. And let me tell you – it was amazingly delicious. I dry rubbed it the day before, and at about 8am on the fourth of July, I put it in my oven, and proceeded to check on it every hour until 4pm when I shredded it, drenched it in Homemade BBQ Sauce and headed out the door. It was a huge success spawning a new line of HAMINTHEFACE jokes and became an instant tradition that I decided I could improve upon for this year’s Second Annual 4th of July Geeknik Peeknik: The Peekniking.

This year I bought two 8 lb pork shoulders and decided to Brine them before roasting (I also use this method for my thanksgiving turkey, so it seemed like a pretty good plan).  Following Kevin & Amanda’s Perfect Pulled Pork Recipe I started the Brine the day before, and took their advice to leave the oven going over night, rather than rushing to get everything done the day of, in a hot kitchen during a heat wave. I made some additions to the Rub, and used the extra to flavor my homemade BBQ Sauce. It took about 10 hours, and turned out perfectly. Next year I might try setting the roasts to rest with the dry rub for 24 hours instead of brining, just to compare, shoulder to shoulder as it were. In any event, here’s the recipe (modified for 1 shoulder) with my additions, but I also highly recommend Kevin & Amanda’s post, as it was highly entertaining, and had some great step-by-step pictures.

Dry Rub:                       Brine Solution:               Equipment:

1 tbsp ground cumin       1/2 cup kosher salt          Plastic Bag (for the Brine)
1 tbsp garlic powder        1/2 cup brown sugar        Roasting Pan
1 tbsp onion powder        2 qts cold water               Probe Thermometer
1 tbsp coriander              3 tbsp dry rub mix           Aluminum Foil (Roasting Tent)
1 tbsp chili powder           2 bay leaves                   1 Pork Shoulder, 8 lbs
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp ginger
1 tbsp ground allspice
1 tbsp cloves
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp ground pepper
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp ground mustard powder
1/2 cup brown sugar


The morning of the big day:

  1. Add salt to cold water and stir very well until all the salt is completely dissolved. Then add the brown sugar and dry rub and stir well to combine.
  2. Rinse the pork shoulder in cold water and place in a water tight plastic bag (or a container big enough so the shoulder is completely covered in brine solution).
  3. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours (or up to 12, if possible). (The fridge door makes a good place to keep the shoulder upright & thus completely covered in brine.)

Later that night… (After the Brining):

  1. Preheat oven to 225, oven rack in the middle position.
  2. Remove the pork shoulder from the brine solution and place in the roasting pan. Pat the skin dry with paper towels.
  3. Generously cover the WHOLE thing in your dry rub mix. mmmmm… Massage it into the meat. Be sure and get it all up in there. (Save some of the rub mix to be used later.)
  4. Cover the roasting pan in aluminum foil (this keeps the roast from getting dry and contributes to the concept of a slow moist heat. It will also lessen the cooking time somewhat).
  5. With fat layer facing UP, stick the thermometer into the thickest part of the shoulder, but not touching the bone.
  6. Set the alarm on the probe thermometer for 200 degrees. Yes. 200 degrees. This is the point at which all of the connective tissue breaks down, rendering the roast form over cooked to fall apart in your mouth perfection. (note: this shoulder will take between 1.5 to 2 hours per pound to cook. And so, an 8 lb shoulder should take around 13 hours.)
  7. When the alarm goes off and the shoulder has reached 200 degrees, turn off the oven and let the roast cool for about 2 hours before removing from the oven (If the bottom of the pan is dry, cover the pan with foil to retain internal moisture of the meat during the cooling period.)
  8. After a couple hours, (when the meat is 170 degrees or less) remove the shoulder from the oven & remove the large sheet of crusted fat on top (it’s work is done here, don’t worry, there is more than enough fat marbled in the meat. It is after all, still pork). I suggest reserving the liquid gold at the bottom of the pan for other ham related cooking adventures, like say, collard greens.
  9. Using two large forks, begin pulling the meat apart. It will fall apart very easily and it shouldn’t take long at all to pull apart the whole roast. Pour some of the reserved liquid back in to help keep shreeded meat moist, not that it really needs it, but it will definitely increase deliciocity
  10. Do a taste test, if more seasoning seems in order, sprinkle some of the dry rub mix or drench in Homemade BBQ Sauce to taste.

Disclaimers & Suggestions:

  • Good in sandwich form or straight up, generally better when shared with friends and/or complete strangers. May result in a HAM Coma and/or incessant HAM Jokes. Goes well with beer (or sweet tea, vodka’d or otherwise).

Coming Soon: Adventures in HAM part II: Hittin’ The Sauce


5 comments so far

  1. Katie on

    yayyyyyy hamintheface!

  2. ham recipe on

    I love making ham! Nothing can compare to that feeling whenever I get to perfect that sweet and salty taste. I will definitely give this a try. I found a ham recipe with a sweet and spicy kick in it and I love it. I think this particular recipe of yours will be a big hit to my kids, lol! They love ham, I wonder why is that? lol!

  3. mikeyil on


  4. […] Recently I wrote about my Adventures in HAM, part of those exploits included a side trip into the universe of BBQ sauce. […]

  5. […] I wrote about my Adventures in HAM, part of those exploits included a side trip into the universe of BBQ sauce. Last year I went with […]

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