Oven-Barbecued Fresh Ham

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

OK, let’s say you really want the taste of barbecue but you don’t have the patience to smoke a ham. Fake it. That is, roast the ham in the oven using smoky spices and flavorings that’ll make people swear you were at the pit all day.

NotesNowadays, smoked paprika is practically synonymous with Spanish cooking. This wasn’t always so. It was once a featured spice in dishes from Extremadura in western Spain, but because of complicated culinary politics and international obsessions, the smoky ground powder is now ubiquitous in Iberia. Smoked paprika comes in a bewildering variety of flavors, heats, and grinds. Suffice it to say that we always call for a finely ground spice that’s mild but quite smoky. Look for it in the spice aisle of most large supermarkets-or from online spice purveyors.

Molasses is a thick syrup made from sun-ripened sugar cane and prized for its aromatic, bright, sugary-but-still-slightly-sour taste. Sulphured varieties, never recommended, are made from immature canes from which the juice has been extracted by means of a noxious gas.

Chipotles are smoked, dried jalapenos. They are sometimes canned in adobo sauce, a fiery mixture of tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, and spices. They pack a powerful punch of fiery capsaicin (the chemical compound that gives chiles their heat); wash your hands diligently with soap after working with the chiles.

Tester Notes

There’s an unrelenting myth about marinades: that they somehow tenderize meat. But that holds true only if they contain some sort of acid, and only for about a quarter inch into the meat, itself. If you Have a ½-inch thick strip steak, a marinade that includes acid (vinegar, lemon juice, wine) may do some good-but not for this behemoth of a ham. The purpose here is merely to get a little flavoring into the exterior surface planes of the meat. The oven’s heat; not the marinade, will “tenderize” the joint as it roasts.

Slash the Shopping List

Omit the twelve ingredients in step 4 and replace them with 4 cups bottled barbecue sauce, preferably a tomato based sauce that’s fairly wet and loose.

Makes12 to 16 servings-fewer if people have been smelling the thing for a while

Cooking Methodroasting


Total Timea day or more

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionBuffet, Casual Dinner Party, Family Get-together, game day

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, lactose-free, low carb, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free

Equipmentblender, food processor


Taste and Texturemeaty, rich, savory, spiced, sweet, tangy

Type of Dishbarbecue sauce, sauces


  • One 8- to 10-pound bone-in fresh ham, preferably from the shank end, any rind removed.
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mild smoked paprika (see Notes)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced, those slices then separated into thin rings
  • One 28-ounce can tomato puree (do not use paste or sauce)
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon molasses, preferably unsulphured (see Notes)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce (see Notes), stemmed
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced


  1. Rub the ham all over with the Worcestershire sauce and smoked paprika. Set the thing in a large roasting pan, cover with foil, and refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours, depending on how deeply you want the smoky taste of that paprika to permeate the meat.

  2. Uncover the ham and set it out on the counter for 20 minutes while you preheat the oven to 350°F.

  3. Sprinkle the sliced onions on top of the ham and around it in the roasting pan. Cover tightly with foil and shove the whole thing in the oven. Leave it to bake for 3½ hours if it’s an 8-pounder. 4 hours if it’s a 10-pound monster.

  4. Sometime before the stated roasting time is up, give the tomato puree, cider vinegar, brown sugar, honey, molasses, cumin, allspice, cloves, salt, celery seeds, canned chipotle, and garlic clove a whir in a large blender or a food processor fitted with the chopping blade until smooth, scraping down the sides of the canister once or twice to make sure everything is evenly pureed.

  5. Take the roasting pan out of the oven. Transfer the ham to a cutting board, using two silicon roasting mitts or two large metal spatulas, plus lots of shoulder strength.

  6. Scoop all the onions from the pan, put them on a second cutting board, and chop them into little bits.

  7. Drain off the juice and fat in the pan, but into a disposable container, not down the drain, unless your spouse is a plumber.

  8. Return the ham to the pan; sprinkle the chopped onions in the bottom of the pan.

  9. Pour the pureed barbecue sauce over the ham, letting some of it drip down into the pan. Knock the oven temperature down to 325°F and continue roasting (uncovered this time) until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat without touching bone registers 170°F, about 1½ hours. While .the ham roasts, baste it with the pan juices every 20 minutes or so. When done, let the ham stand at room temperature on a carving board for 15 minutes before slicing it.


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