Home cured ham: how to brine a ham

Home cured ham: how to brine a ham

A Farmish Kind of Life is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. You can view our full affiliate disclosure here.

One of the great things about raising your own pigs is having a full freezer after hog butchering is done. And while we all love homemade bacon, ham is a favorite as well. So let me share with you how we brine a ham (and then smoke it!) here at our farm.

While most people think of ham as a giant cut from the back end of a pig, you can actually make ham from any pork roast that you cut. At butcher time, we always cut several smaller pork roasts instead of two giant hams from each pig. We do this because packaging is easier, and it also allows us more flexibility in what we do with the pork roasts.

Interested in learning how to turn your pork into ham? Let me share with you how we brine a ham (or wet-cure a ham) here at our farm.

After choosing a pork roast (or several!) to make into ham, the first thing you need to do is brine the ham. Some people call this “curing” a ham — brining is a type of curing. To brine a ham is basically to wet cure a ham.

Brining takes several days, and it’s essential to the process of making a good ham. Please realize that making a ham from the pigs you have raised is not going to be an immediate thing — it’s definitely a process. Good things come to those who wait.

Interested in learning how to turn your pork into ham? Let me share with you how we brine a ham (or wet-cure a ham) here at our farm.

How to brine a ham

NOTE: This is how we brine ham at our farm, it has worked for us for many years. There are also other theories and ways to do it. Do your own research and then go make some ham. 🙂

Here’s the method we use to brine a ham. For 7 pounds of pork, we did:

2 1/4 cups kosher salt

2 cups brown sugar

1.5 tsp pink curing salt <– needs to be this, not table salt

  • NOTE REGARDING CHANGE IN AMOUNT OF PINK SALT: This recipe was changed in March 2023. Our old, handwritten recipe stated 2.5 TBSP of pink curing salt and so that’s what we used (and originally published on this site) for many years. However, in March 2023, after receiving multiple questions/comments about the “excessive amount of pink curing salt”, we did an experiment to compare the 2.5 TBSPs in the original handwritten recipe to the current “safer” suggestion of 1 tsp of pink curing salt per 5 lbs. of meat. While nitrites were never our concern (after doing our own research regarding pink curing salt and nitrites, as well as nitrites that naturally occur in nature/vegetables) we did find that there is not a huge difference in the taste or “saltiness” of the meat by only using 1.5 tsps of pink curing salt for this recipe. So as a more cost effective and resource conserving method, we have changed the recipe to use only 1.5 tsps of pink curing salt.

1 tablespoon pickling spice

1/4 cup molasses

6 qts of water, divided

Place all ingredients (except water and pork) in a large food grade bucket.

Interested in learning how to turn your pork into ham? Let me share with you how we brine a ham (or wet-cure a ham) here at our farm.

Bring two quarts of water to a boil and then pour over what’s in the bucket. Stir to dissolve. Then pour four quarts of cold water into the bucket. Stir until well combined. Then carefully place your pork roast(s) in the brine filled bucket.

Interested in learning how to turn your pork into ham? Let me share with you how we brine a ham (or wet-cure a ham) here at our farm.

It is very important to remember that when you brine a ham and while this brine is working its magic on the pork roast, the pork roast needs to stay completely submerged. You can do this by turning a dinner plate upside down and putting it on top of the pork roast. For extra insurance, we usually fill a Ziploc bag with water and place it on top of the plate to make sure the pork roast doesn’t come poking out of the brine.

Interested in learning how to turn your pork into ham? Let me share with you how we brine a ham (or wet-cure a ham) here at our farm.

Some people suggest turning or flipping the roast in the brine solution every day or so, but we’ve never done this.

The pork roast needs to brine one day for every two pounds of pork. In other words, a seven pound roast would need to brine at least three and a half days. This bucket of future ham needs to be refrigerated for the entire brine time. Plan accordingly!

Brine for the total weight of pork or the weight of the actual roasts?

If you are brining a bunch of smaller cuts equaling XYZ, the brine will obviously go through the cuts faster than one big roast equaling the same XYZ.

In other words, the brine will go through an 8 pound roast much slower than it will soak into four 2 pound roasts. The time your meat should sit in the brine has more to do with the individual cuts than the total weight of the meat in your bucket.

What if I’m doing a large ham?

If I were making a large ham (one big chunk, bigger than 7 lbs), I would make the brine recipe above, put the ham in the bucket, and see if the brine covers the ham. If it does, I would be good to go. If it didn’t cover the ham, I would make another batch of brine (or a half batch, depending on how much room was left) and add that to the bucket until the ham was covered.

I’d then do the math for how long it needed to sit in the brine, possibly adding a couple more days because the larger pieces can be persnickity about soaking all the way through.

In other words, a larger ham doesn’t necessarily need more brine. You just need enough brine to cover the meat in the bucket, and that will depend on the bucket/container you’re using to brine your meat.

Note: If your ham barely fits in the bucket (pressing against the sides of the bucket and needs a shoe horn to get back out) find a bigger bucket/container. Your brine will not be able to soak in if it can’t get around the meat.

Note: Larger hams can sometimes benefit from also injecting some brine into the meat, but I’ve not done super large pieces of meat yet to share my experience with this.

After brine time is done…

When the brining time is completed, you need to rinse the roast(s). Some folks rinse it in cold water for several minutes, other folks put the roasts back into a clean bucket with fresh water and let it sit overnight.

Interested in learning how to turn your pork into ham? Let me share with you how we brine a ham (or wet-cure a ham) here at our farm.

It all depends how salty you like your ham. The quicker you rinse, the saltier the ham will be. (We rinse ours for about five minutes – we like salty ham!)

After the ham has been rinsed to your liking, blot the ham dry. We actually set ours up to dry in the kitchen on drying racks with a fan. The drier the skin of your ham is, the more the smoke flavor will adhere in the next step.

Interested in learning how to turn your pork into ham? Let me share with you how we brine a ham (or wet-cure a ham) here at our farm.

The next step after you brine a ham? Smoke the ham.

We have an electric smoker (only because we don’t yet have a smokehouse) and so when our hams are ready to be smoked we put them in the smoker, turn it on, set it 225 degrees, fill the tray with wood chips, and let ‘er go.

Interested in learning how to turn your pork into ham? Let me share with you how we brine a ham (or wet-cure a ham) here at our farm.

Know this: it sometimes takes a lot longer to smoke your hams because the temperature outside is well below zero and it takes that smoker a little more work to keep up to temp. This particular 14 pounds of ham smoked for several hours at 225 degrees for the hams to reach an internal temperature of 150-160 degrees.

Even so, it was well worth the wait.

Interested in learning how to turn your pork into ham? Let me share with you how we brine a ham (or wet-cure a ham) here at our farm.

Can you “smoke” a ham if you don’t have a smoker?

You can! On a handwritten recipe card in my recipe box, I have the instructions that after you brine a ham, it should be dried, brushed with liquid smoke, and then baked at 325 for 30 minutes per pound, or until the internal temp of the ham reaches 150 degrees F. We don’t use this recipe now because we have a smoker, but it’s good to know the option is there.

There are also several articles on the Google that explain how to smoke a ham (or any meat) without a smoker—some of them are simple, others more involved. Try your luck with the Google and see what you come up with.

Or, you know, invest in a smoker.

Homegrown, home-cured ham is the best!

There’s nothing like sitting down to a plate of eggs from the coop, toast made from homemade bread, and a slab of ham from pigs that you raised yourself. It’s the best kind of meal, don’t you think?

Interested in learning how to turn your pork into ham? Let me share with you how we brine a ham (or wet-cure a ham) here at our farm.

Yum, you guys. YUM.

4.62 from 18 votes

Brine (wet-cure) for fresh ham

Have fresh pork you’d like to turn into ham? Here’s how to make it happen!


  • 2 1/4 cups kosher salt
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1.5 tsp. pink curing salt
  • 1 Tbsp pickling spice
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 6 quarts water (divided)
  • 7 pounds pork roast (adjust recipe if using more pork)


1. Place salts, sugars, spices, and molasses in large food grade bucket.

2. Bring TWO quarts of the water to a boil and then pour over the dry ingredients in the bucket. Stir to dissolve.

3. Then pour FOUR quarts of cold water into the bucket. Stir until well combined.

4. Carefully place your pork roast(s) in the brine filled bucket. Turn a plate upside down and place on top of pork roasts to keep them completely submerged.

5. The pork needs to brine ONE day for every TWO pounds of pork. (7 lbs of pork = 3.5 days) and needs to be refrigerated that entire time.

6. When brining is completed, you need to rinse the roast(s). You can rinse the pork in cold water for several minutes (saltier ham). Or put pork back into a clean bucket with fresh water and let it sit overnight (less salty ham).

7. Blot ham dry, or dry on racks with a fan.

8. Smoke (electric smoker or smokehouse) until internal recipe reaches 150-160.

9. Don’t have a smoker? The ham should be blotted dry, brushed with liquid smoke, and then baked at 325 for 30 minutes per pound, or until the internal temp of the ham reaches 150 degrees F.

82 thoughts on “Home cured ham: how to brine a ham”

  • I’m curious if you can help. This past week, we were given a full tenderloin, full ribs and 2 hams. All this was already frozen when we got them. They are wild boar and not tame hogs.

    Can you provide any direction on how I can cure, smoke or other ideas since these since they are already frozen? I’d love to have the hams for the holidays, but have no idea where to start with cooking.


    • In the past we have thawed our frozen meat (turkeys, pork roasts, etc) and then brined it. Then we smoke it and refreeze it. We’ve not had any issues with it. 🙂

  • 5 stars
    I have been looking for these ingredients and measurements for a year already. Thank you so much. It’s a miracle that I came across your website. Would this work with pork tenderloin or is that too small of a piece of meat? Thank you. Sansi

  • I have never wet cured a ham or any cut of pork. I have dry cured many hogs with great success. I am going to give your recipe a whirl. Have a blessed day.

  • We just reciently bought our 1st whole pig and received the ham( huge btw ) ham slices (2 per bag ) and the bacon sliced and in bags . Do I brine these pre cut pieces the same way? Just put all of the sliced bacon and ham slices in bucket ? Then to smoke do I just lay slices on grates not over lapping? After that is done do I refreeze in what ever portions ?.

  • 5 stars
    We used this on 30 pounds of fresh pork (never brined a fresh ham before, but go big or go home!) Absolutely perfect. The best ham I have ever tasted. Thank you for sharing your recipe!

  • 4 stars
    4 until I try it. Thanks! In the brine can I replace some or most of the salt with “No Salt,” that is a salt substitute? It is mostly potassium. I am on a low salt diet. I would still use the pink curing salt. I would use the soak overnight way of rinsing.

  • 4 stars
    You say “need to brine one day for every two pounds” then in you example say for a seven pound ham , 2 1/2 days, shouldn’t this be for 3 1/2 days? Just want to make sure I do it right!!

  • 4 stars
    I brined a bone in pork shoulder just under 7# It was only pink on the outer 2/3s Still grey inside. Dose it need more time in the brine?

  • Very interested to try this recipe. What cut of pork were you using in the recipe exactly? Was that a deboned, skinned pork ham or was it a deboned Boston butt (shoulder) or some other cut? Thanks for responding.

    • Hi there Mike! It could have been any of those cuts, we’ve turned lots of different cuts into “hams”. If its not a chop or bacon or ground for sausage, it gets cut as a hunk of meat and called a roast, which we then turn into ham. 🙂

  • 4 stars
    Looking forward to trying. I got a 18lb ham gifted to me. I feel 9 days of brining would be a lot. What do you recommend?

  • I have a 7lb pork belly that I want to make into bacon. I have tried this ham recipe and love it. I know you have another recipe for bacon but is it possible to use a belly with the ham recipe minus the pickling spice? I am short on time to brine so the 3.5 days is ideal for me. Why are the cure amounts so different between the bacon and ham recipes? Thank you for your help!

    • I am unsure about that, sorry! I don’t know the science behind why the bacon recipe is so much longer than the ham recipe, but I’ve often wondered the same thing myself!

  • I just put my pork in my brine, I have 4 smaller cuts, each cut weighing 2 lbs. Would you still calculate the 3ish days for the 8 lbs? Or would it be less since the cuts of meat are small? Also, can you “overbrine“ something or leave it in too long? The brine smelled amazing, can’t wait to try my ham!

    • For brining pork, I brine for the weight of the actual cuts, not the total weight of the pork in the brine bucket. If it’s a bunch of smaller cuts equaling XYZ, the brine will go through the whole cuts obviously faster than one big cut equaling XYZ. I am not sure that you can really brine something *too long* in your case (as in comparing whether to brine it as two pound cuts or an 8 pound lump), the only thing that might happen is it might be more salty. You can remedy that by rinsing the pork in cold water for longer before you smoke it. 🙂

  • Hi Amy. I’m planning on curing a boneless 7 pound Pork Shoulder. I checked out the curing salt in the link that you provided and the instructions say that you should use 1 teaspoon per 5 pounds of meat while your recipe requires 2 1/2 tablespoons. Why exactly do I need that amount? Is it because this is a “wet cure”? I also read the salt can be toxic. Just want to be on the safe side here. I appreciate your response.

    • There are lots of rabbit holes you can go down regarding the pink salt, nitrates, etc. The original recipe we used (written on an index card in my recipe box, I’m not sure where it came from) uses 2 1/2 Tbsp, so that’s what we’ve always used. 🙂

      • The 1 tsp per 5 lbs of meat is when mixing it into ground meat for making sausage, use a different formula when brining, I thought 2 1/2 TBSP sounded kinda high, but no expert

  • Hi there! This recipe looks delicious and I’m going to try a ham in brine for Christmas. I have a question about the curing salts-If the pork is in the refrigerator for the entire brining process, then smoked/baked until the correct internal temp is reached, does it NEED to have curing salts (yes-regular salt and sugar)? I’m looking for flavor, but not necessarily for it to be “cured”.
    My ham is HUGE so I might only brine it for several days, then smoke for 4 hours and finish in the oven… or cut into 2 manageable pieces.

    • In my research, I’ve known people who use recipes without the pink salt (if they are cooking the ham right away), just know that the ham will not have the “color” you’re used to without the pink salt. I’ve not used this recipe without the pink salt, so I’m unsure of what the results would be.

  • Is the brown sugar what we buy at the grocers or something special?
    Is the curing salt different yo the kushner salt?
    Thanks for your response.

    • Brown sugar – just the regular brown sugar you buy at the store, otherwise you can make your own with white sugar and molasses.
      The curing salt we use is also known as Prague powder or Instacure. It’s “pink curing salt”, which is *not* the same as pink Himalayan salt.

  • I am bringing a 9 lb pork shoulder (one big lump) using your recipe. Question for you – do I leave in the bring for 4.5 days because it is one lump? Or do I leave it longer? I am confused at how you refer to the time the leave the pork in the brine. Any help is appreciated! I’m excited to try your recipe. Thank you!

    • I brine for the weight of the individual chunk(s) of meat. For a 9 pound chunk of meat I would brine for 4.5 days because it will take that long for the brine to go all the way through that big chunk of meat. If you want to decrease the brine time, cut the chunk of meat in half. 🙂 It doesn’t take as much time for the brine to soak through two 4.5 pound chunks of meat as it does for it to go through one big 9 pound chunk of meat. Hope this helps!

      • Thank you! One more question – does the chunk of meat having bone impact brining time? I have another lump of pork I want to bribe using this recipe that is a bone-in pork. Is it okay to bribe longer than the 4.5 days?

        • I don’t know that the bone affects the brining, I’ve never done a bone in chunk of meat. Longer brining just makes things a bit more salty in my experience. 🙂

  • 5 stars
    Hello i have made this ham before and its amazing. I have a question on brine time. I was thinking bacon when i pulled out my roasts. When i cure bacon i cure for two weeks. The problem i have now is the hams are thawed and i dont need them for two and a half more weeks. Can i just keep the hams in the brine for that long, or should i smoke them and then freeze them until i need them in two weeks? Thanks

    • Scientifically/food safety wise, I’m not sure about the longer wet brine time so I won’t advise on that. My immediate thought though is that brining for 2 1/2 weeks is going to give you a really, really, really salty ham.

      • I used this recipe for a 23 pound bone in ham. Got busy and kind of forgot about it setting in a 5 gallon bucket in my cooler. After 7 months (yes months), discovered it still there and appearing ok. Soaked in fresh water overnight, smoked it, and still found a small non cured spot in the ham that had been tight against the pail all that time. Certainly suggest injection has its place when the working with such large pieces.

  • 4 stars
    I used this recipe this week. It turned out pretty well. 80% pink and tastes like ham. But the center near the bone is still grey and flat, tasting like pork. What did I do wrong? I used a pretty big ham. 8 lbs.

    • Generally if the pink doesn’t make it to the middle, it means it didn’t brine quite long enough. We’ve had that happen a couple times on brines we tried to rush or pork cuts that were super thick. 🙂

        • That I don’t know because we never went that route (even though it mentions it in the original recipe I have, there are no measurements). Sorry! Perhaps comparing different “smoked ham” recipes that use liquid smoke might give you an estimate?

  • I have a question. I’m going to Brine cure 11 pound fresh bone in ham for Thanksgiving. How much water kosher salt and pink salt do I use? Your help would be much appreciated thank you

    • If I had an 11 pound fresh bone in ham, I would make the brine recipe for the 7 lbs (the one I posted), put the ham in the bucket, pour the brine over and see if it covers the ham. If it does, you’re good to go. If not, make another batch (or a half batch) of brine and add as much as needed to cover the ham in the bucket/container.

      As far as time, I would still plan to leave it in the brine for “one day for every two pounds of pork” (so, 5.5 days) but I might also consider leaving it in there for 6 or 7 days (nothing wrong with 8 or 9 days) because those bigger, whole cuts sometimes take a little longer to soak through.

      I’d love to know how it turns out for you!

      • 4 stars
        I had a 14# Ham. I made a double batch. I didn’t have pickling salt. So I added more Pink cure salt. I brined it for 7 days. I washed the pork leg off. I cut a piece off and cooked it up to taste the saltiness. It was really salty so I soaked it in water for half hour. I smoked it for 9 hours. The next day the color really came through. Still a little saltiness I rub brown sugar and pineapple juice soak it for a couple of hours and did a slow cook. Everyone loved it. It cured all the way through.

  • 5 stars
    Amy, just wanted to say how amazing this recipe is. I found your site last year and made a couple hams. Everyone that tried it absolutely raved about it. This year I’ve been requested to bring ham to every family holiday event! Currently have 4 more hams in a couple buckets that’ll be going on the smoker tomorrow. I will say that I find injecting hams bigger than about 6-7 is necessary in my opinion. I’ve had the best results doing this.

  • 5 stars
    I found this recipe a couple years ago now and have used it multiple times.
    You are absolutely right. The hams made from home raised pork are the best. I have a 10# ham in the smoker now and looking forward to enjoying it once again. Thank you
    (I do inject the brine in larger roasts and have had no problems.)

    • So glad the recipe works well for you! I’ve heard a lot of people tell me that the larger hams benefit from injection, so if we ever do a larger ham we will make sure to do that!

  • Hello there. Love the smell of this wet brine. It’s not my first ham however it’s my first following this recipe. I adore the simplicity of your site. You can almost smell the smoke in your ham photos.

    26lb ham with hock, foot for those that don’t know, multiplied all ingredients by 3.71. Just went into the brine today. I also wet injected about several times near the bone. I didn’t want to pierce the meat too much. Plan is to marinate for 13 days. Swim for another day in water, most of my other hams have been way to salty but salt is good good for New Year’s Eve hangover right? After the bath, dry over night on racks as you mentioned, get up early and start smoking on the smoker for approximately 12-13 hours. I’ll gladly submit follow up photos and report.

    I’m drooling as I type this. Really looking forward to feeding this to the family army in the New Year.

    Merry Christmas

    • Sounds like a giant adventure with a big ham! Are you going to dry the hams on racks in a fridge overnight? Just for clarification, I wouldn’t let them sit *overnight* on the counter with a fan. When we let our hams dry on the counter it’s only for about an hour. If you’re going to let them dry longer than that, I would put them in a fridge. 🙂 Cant wait to see how it all turns out for you!

  • I’ve seen in the comments about switching out the brown sugar for honey, but could I switch out the molasses for honey. We like stuff sweet.


  • I found your recipe for curing ham. And I’ve used it for the past few years.
    I use pork picnic roasts to make my ham, always at least 9lb .And I always leave it in the brine for two weeks and every two days I inject it with the brine. The ham comes out perfect and my family loves it! Thanks for the great recipe!

    • I’ve only used two in my life, a Masterbuilt we bought brand new and the other a secondhand Pit Boss. What I’d really like to do is build our own electric smoker so we can make it exactly how we want. 🙂

  • 5 stars
    I brined a pork butt using this recipe. I added some liquid smoke, and injected some brine . Smoked it in three days,it was awesome!! 💯

  • 5 stars
    I used this recipe on a 9 lb ham injected and brined for 7 days I also added apple juice, the apple pie flavored stuff about 1 and half cup I did not rince the ham before smoking was not to salty I also glazed with honey and brown sugar mix during the smoking Best ham I’ve ever had my wife said the same thing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating