Hams are cured with salt, nitrites, seasonings and preservatives that give it a pink color and tender texture. Picnic hams weigh 5 to 8 lbs. and come from the front, or shoulder, of the animal’s body. A smoked picnic ham is not a “fresh” ham, so a large slow cooker should adequately re-heat it for safe consumption or warm it up for dinner.
A picnic ham that has not been cured is just a pork shoulder roast, just right for slow-cooked barbecue. Your picnic ham has been cured, giving it a pink, smooth texture and taste. Wet curing injects brine into the meat and dry curing rubs meat with salt and other ingredients, and then ages it in a cool environment. Picnic hams taken from the shoulder section require a slow cooker that holds up to 6 qts.; the butt section, often sold as a boneless picnic ham, requires at least a 4-qt. cooker.
Smoked hams have been cured and then hung in a “smokehouse,” a building where the temperature is kept high by smoldering fires built with aromatic woods such as hickory or fruit woods. Where temperature is regulated by electricity or natural gas, the smoke flavor comes from atomized artificial smoke flavor. The end result in either case is a fully cooked ham that is ready to eat. Rinse dry-cured hams well in water to remove the excess surface salt before cooking.
Slow cookers vary in construction and, therefore, in the way that they cook. A metal-lined cooker cooks like an oven, with hot spots. A ceramic liner, however, heats very evenly. The cooker with the metal liner gets hotter faster than the more heat-resistant ceramic liner. Both lose much of the heat that has built up inside whenever the lid is moved. Because of the nature of the meat, a slow cooker with a ceramic insert and a digital meat thermometer that can be observed through the lid ensures the most accurate cooking.
Time and Temperature
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that smoked hams sold without a wrapper applied at the smokehouse, or repackaged in another location such as at a wholesaler, be re-heated to a 165-degree Fahrenheit internal temperature. Smoked hams in manufacturer-packed, vacuum-sealed material need be heated only to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook’s, a producer of smoked picnic hams, suggests adding a cup of water, apple cider or orange juice to the cooker before covering and heating on low for six to seven hours.
Smithfield, a Virginia producer of smoked hams, recommends adding a cup of water and cooking its smoked picnic shoulder hams, wrapped or covered, at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes per pound to an internal temperature of 148 degrees Fahrenheit. The company warns that picnic hams tend to dry out when overcooked. A fully cooked ham requires only 12 minutes per pound to reheat, so check the package carefully before putting the ham in the slow cooker.
An avid perennial gardener and old house owner, Laura Reynolds has had careers in teaching and juvenile justice. A retired municipal judgem Reynolds holds a degree in communications from Northern Illinois University. Her six children and stepchildren served as subjects of editorials during her tenure as a local newspaper editor.