How To Cure Ham at Home, It's Easier Than You Think! Wet Curing (Brine) Ham Instructions and Tips.

Put your OWN ham in that sandwich!!!

Home cured and smoked ham doesn't seem as though it should sneak into any sort of "easy cooking" recipe compilation. It's something that sounds hard to do, that few people know how to do, and that does take a long time…but home cured ham is actually very easy to make! Home curing your own ham (wet cure) takes just a few minutes of active work and about a week of waiting until you are left with a ham you have preserved yourself.

There are two kinds of American ham, of course, wet cured and dry cured. The famous hams of Virginia are dry cured, and they cannot, unfortunately, be reproduced in a week inside your refrigerator. The hams that you buy pre cooked at the supermarket can – and you can make them better at home.

Home curing a ham is quite safe, but you will need to get a hold of some insta cure #1 (also called pink salt or D.Q. curing salt, among other things). This ready to use curing salt is sold as a pre mixed combination of 93.75% salt and 6.25% nitrite. It is the nitrite that guards against the slim possibility of botulism, and also what gives ham its rosy pink finish. Nitrite in high concentrations is toxic, so measure carefully (but don’t be scared either!!!). You can find this curing salt in better supermarkets and specialty food stores.

Step 1

Buy a fresh ham leg (uncured pork), a half fresh ham, or a piece of fresh ham in whatever size you're comfortable with. I am using the term ham here to refer to the hind leg section of a pig - you must buy fresh, not already cured pork. The size doesn’t matter; buy it as big or small as you are comfortable with.

Step 2

Prepare the brine.

I use a brine recipe from Michael Rhulman's book "Charcuterie" (which is excellent)

  • 2 liters of water
  • ¾ cup of kosher salt
  • 1 cup of brown sugar (1 packed cup)
  • 4 teaspoons of pink salt (insta cure #1) (4 teaspoons)

Stir all ingredients together until dissolved. This brine can be multiplied as needed, and if you are doing a whole ham, you will probably need to double it.

Step 3

Place your pork in a bowl or pot that is large enough to hold the meat completely submerged in the brine, but one small enough to fit in your fridge. Add the cold brine to the pork, and lay a heavy plate on top of the floating meat to keep it submerged.

Keep it in the fridge until done. It will cure at the rate of 2 pounds per day. A large ham will take about a week.

Step 4

Rinse it off and prepare it in any way you enjoy. This ham is better if smoked (see here for instructions on hot smoking a fresh ham) but you can just as easily bake it or fry off slices unsmoked, and it will still be great. It has become ham – it is done!

Curing your own ham is pretty easy. I think it tastes better than commercial hams that tend to contain lengthy and questionable ingredient lists and when fresh pork ham is on sale, it can be very economical. Plus it's kind of neat to make your own ham!

A last tip…if you find the ham too salty you can soak it in clean water in the fridge for a couple of hours to leach out some of the salt. I don’t tend to find that this is necessary.

Comments 60 comments

C. C. Riter 7 years ago

Wonderful. I will try this, and I have a smoker. thanks

johnr54 profile image

johnr54 7 years ago from Texas

Wow, I never even considered doing this at home. I may give it a try after it gets warm enough to grill outside.

Noel 7 years ago

I first want to say I really enjoyed your article on brining a ham. I found it very informative and interesting!

I am making a ham for the first time. I have done a lot of reading. I decided to start with a whole shoulder butt since it was purchased at $.57 per pound, and left me with a trimmed weight of 8-lb. Also, It will give me a start on a good mix of spices to try and see what adjustments I want to make before I take on "the real thing".

I needed about 2 gal. of water to cover the meat in my brining container. From yours and other recipes, I chose 2 cups of salt to make the brine ( a little heavy), and an assortment of spices. If it comes out too salty, I will leach out some of the salt in water. I upped the sugar with a little syrup and molasses.

Now the question is "how much "instacure" to add?

I actually have a mix equal to #2 which contains 6.25% sodium nitrite, and 3.63% sodium nitrate that I bought to make some sausage. I understand the difference between the to (#1 & #2) but didn't feel the less than 1% difference of the nitrite was significant, and the nitrate was so low that even if it didn't have enough time to all convert to nitrite, it wouldn't make much difference since in a brine I suspect much of it will stay in the brine anyway.

However, all the information I can find shows amounts to "meat" and little on how much to use in a brine. The manufacture states for there cure #1 to use 24-lb/100 gal. which converts to about 4 oz per gallon. That seems like w-a-y too much.

Your recipe is as follows:

2 liters of water

¾ cup of kosher salt

1 cup of brown sugar (1 packed cup)

4 teaspoons of pink salt (Instacure #1)

2 liters equals .53 gal., so for 2 gal. of water that would mean 12 tsp. or 4 Tlb., and that seems like too much also, but I just don't know; and other then the manufacturerer and your recipe, I haven't found anything else. to compare to.

Although the nitrites are suppose to give the meat it's color by reacting with the myoglobin in the meat, I have also found recipes that say it isn't necessary, and that the salt in the brine will do the same thing.

My main reason for wanting to use the nitrites/nitrates is to control any problems with bacteria and such that could result in spoilage until I get the meat through the process up to freezing or smoking.

Do you have any more input on this, or can you refer me to a source that might have more information?

Thank you in advance for your help and consideration!


John D Lee profile image

John D Lee 7 years ago Author

Thank you for the comment Noel,

The shoulder “ham” makes a very nice cured piece of meat – almost more bacon like than ham like, in my opinion, but all the same, very tasty.

The cure does turn the meat pink – which makes it look nice and ham-like, but it serves a more important purpose, and that is eliminating the risk of botulism. In rare cases, without the use of nitrite, botulism toxin can grow in the anaerobic environment of a wet cure. So, you can cure ham with only salt, but when doing so, you expose yourself to a very small risk of botulism.

About the amount of cure – It’s tough for me to give you much advice. I follow a recipe adapted from one in Charcuterie, by Michael Rhulman and Brian Polcyn, which is a very respected book on the subject of curing meat – and I can confirm that the amount called for turns the meat pink throughout – and it hasn’t killed me yet!

I suspect that you could probably go either way with no real problems, using the lesser amount as called for by Rhulman, or using the larger amount as called for by the manufacturer. If it were me, I’d use the lesser amount, but I can’t guarantee that I’d be right!

It is difficult to find curing information on the web, I have in the past been frustrated by this. Charcuterie, is a very worthwhile book to pick up, by the way, if you are at all interested in preserving meat.

I hope that this offers you some assistance.

Let me know how it works out,


Jim 6 years ago

Can you safely cure a pork butt or belly that has been frozen?

John D Lee profile image

John D Lee 6 years ago Author

Hi Jim,

Provided the meat was stored appropriately prior to freezing, then you can safely cure it once defrosted.

ecogirl333 profile image

ecogirl333 6 years ago

Cool, I was thinking of giving this a go in the spring when our new (and large enough) fridge arrives.

John D Lee profile image

John D Lee 6 years ago Author

Ecogirl, you really should.

I just finished smoking a small ham this afternoon. It was only 3 pounds so I only started brining it a couple of days ago and today it's ready (hot smoked) for dinner and then for tasty sandwiches for a while!

Why wait for the bigger fridge?!?

Tideroll 334 profile image

Tideroll 334 6 years ago from Prattville Alabama

john I tried my dry cure I talked with you about back in Nov 09. We smoked it in Jan and carved last week.Thanks for the tips.Rolltide

John D Lee profile image

John D Lee 6 years ago Author

Hey that's great! You didn't happen to take any pics did you? I'd love to see it...

Donna 6 years ago

We killed several hogs the deer season and wanted to put some of those legs to good use. We just finnished curing two hams and put them in the smoker for several hours. This is the best ham I have ever had. I will never buy another ham again. Thanks.....

John D Lee profile image

John D Lee 6 years ago Author

Donna, I'm so glad to hear of your success- enjoy the hams!

Kath 6 years ago

hi im looking for images of the curing process. Different states of change, raw half ready to ready... can anybody help me?

John D Lee profile image

John D Lee 6 years ago Author

Hi Kath,

I am not sure how much photos will help, as the meat doesn't look that different from uncured meat while raw.

The meat will become noticeable firmer as it cures and if you cut a test slice and fry it about halfway through the curing time, you can see how far into the meat the cure has penetrated by how deeply in it is pink around a center ring of grey.

adorababy profile image

adorababy 6 years ago from Syracuse, NY

Homemade hams are better because they are not commercialized in flavor. Plus, you can be sure that they are clean and well processed.

dave shinnebarger 6 years ago

what does it mean when the ham doesn't float, i followed the recipe to the line.


dave shinnebarger 6 years ago

i forgot to say i had 2 hams cut off the bone, and the meat doesn't float thanks anyone with an answer can e-maqil me at

Mike Buel 6 years ago

Ok so first time here I bought a curing kit from the sausage maker. In it it had insta cure and 3 cures. I thought I had to add the insta cure to the cure and found out that the insta cure was already in the cure. I used an injector Question did I ruin the meat?

cheryl from GA 6 years ago

I followed these instructions exactly using a 7.25 lb. picnic shoulder. The ham was really good, I smoked on my smoker until I got an internal temp of 158F. It probably should have cured for 5 days instead of four, but overall a great and super easy experience!

Rod 6 years ago

is tender quick the same as Insta cure or pink salt? Or will it work in place of pink salt?

Rod 6 years ago

I would also like to know if this cure would work ok for Poultry?...Like turkey breasts,or pheasant??

Claire 6 years ago

Hi, I have a 1-3/4 lb uncured ham steak (less than an inch thick) and a 3/4 lb pkg of sliced uncured bacon. I have your brine mixture all mixed up and I started getting concerned about the length of time for keep those in the brine. They pieces of meat are so thin. Should I keep all the meat in the brine for a full 24 hours?

Ernesto 6 years ago

Greetings from South America

Dear John,

I was looking for an easy-to-do recipe and yours is simply fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing it. I do hope to put it to test very soon, of course I will let you know the results! I am pretty sure it will be a tasteful treat, considering that getting a good cured ham where I live is, without a doubt, impossible. Also, I am looking forward to smoke it!

So I have a couple of questions:

1. You gave this proportions for the recipe:

* 2 liters of water

* ¾ cup of kosher salt

* 1 cup of brown sugar (1 packed cup)

* 4 teaspoons of pink salt (insta cure #1) (4 teaspoons)

Do you know how many pounds are advisable to cure with those ingredients proportions? [In other words, how many pounds of ham (the pig's leg) can be cured? (including the bone].

2. I was trying to get the "insta cure" which until now it seems it is impossible to get. So I am thinking in mixing 93.75 grams of salt and 6.25 grams of nitrite. Do you think this mix will work for the curing process?

3. What king of nitrite should I get? sodium, potassium nitrite or what?

I would really appreciate you advice on this, if u want, my email address is:

Best regards,


andre 6 years ago

I am butchering my pig this friday. i want to cure and smoke both hind legs and bacon, but I am having a hard time finding pink salt. As long as the meat is cooked after do i still have to worry about botulism ?

John D Lee profile image

John D Lee 5 years ago Author

Hi Ernesto,

The 2 liters listed above is good for 6 or 7 pounds of ham, bone in or out. The recipe can be multiplied as needed.

Yes, you want to get sodium nitrite, not potassium nitrate

I am in a similar situation here in Thailand as I am also unable to buy ready mixed pink salt. You can just mix together the sodium nitrite with salt, but the problem you may have is in knowing whether your distribution (dilution) is even, and you may inadvertently use too little at any one time, or worse - too much.

What I do to ensure even dilution is dissolve pure sodium nitrite in water, in a ratio by weight of 6.75% sodium nitrite and 93.25% water. I pack this in a water bottle that I label very very thoroughly with skulls and cross bones to prevent accidental ingestion. This will keep indefinitely.

To make a liter of this solution you use 67.5 grams of sodium nitrite and 933 grams of water. You can then use this interchangeable in recipes - so if a recipe calls for 10 grams of pink salt, you can use 10 grams of your nitrite water solution.

Best of luck!

Patty 5 years ago

Hi, this is all very informative. I once bought a plain raw/uncured ham & gilled it on low heat with lots of smoke & it was very good.

I'd like to try your curing method but don't know about finding pink salt. How about potassium metabisulphite? It is used to sterilize (as wine bottles) & a little in @ bottle of wine as a preservative before corking them. Would that prevent bottulism? Thanks


Patty 5 years ago

Just read that Morton has a curing product that has the nitrite in it called 'Tender Quick', so if you can find that, it can save us from finding Pink Salt. I'm also wondering about salt peter....I think I read that it was used for preserving & curing(?). Thanks again... can't wait to smoke my 1st cured ham & fish!


Greg 5 years ago

Thanks for the great recipe John. I'm going to do a fresh ham for Christmas dinner. The curing part I get, I've smoked fish in the past. The question is... do I need to smoke it? I have no idea what a unsmoked cured ham would taste like comparitively. Thoughts? Thank you.


Mark 5 years ago

How long will the wet cure ham last. I know dry cured last a long time? Is it the same thing. Thanks

John D Lee profile image

John D Lee 5 years ago Author

Hi Patty - I've never used Morton's Tender Quick - and I see that it has both Sodium nitrite and Sodium nitrate listed as ingredients - I think it would probably work, but am not sure about it...anyone know? You do definitely want to use sodium nitrite though, not potassium metabisulphite. I'm not a chemist so can't say what will happen if you do, but since the possible consequence of screwing this up is fatal botulism, I think it's a good idea to use what the health and safety experts say you should use!

Greg - unsmoked ham tastes pretty good, but smoked ham tastes better! I'd recommend planning on smoking it if you can, but before you pop it into the smoker, slice of a bit and fry it up so you'll know for next time whether you want to smoke - or not smoke.

Mark - dry cured hams are typically also aged until quite dry, and this dryness allows for long storage. Wet cured hams, due to their salt content keep better than fresh meat, but you should use fresh pork guidelines to give you a general idea of how long to keep this in the fridge uncooked.

matthew armstrong 5 years ago

HI, i am curing 2 hams and have cured 10 pork bellies this year. i have used both mortons sugar cure, which is a dry rub for bacon and other cuts and used a barbecue injector. to inject them with #1 pink salt. directions are 3 oz. to 1 gallon of water for a 10% pump. pumping takes about 15 days off of brine time. i have a salinator to test the brine strength. and just make a stronger brine out of the pink salt cure. that way i can see for sure the strength of the brine. The Sausage maker has the salts you need on their web site. good luck

eatlikenoone profile image

eatlikenoone 5 years ago from Saline, MI

Thanks for writing this hub. My goal is a good writer to encouraging people to do for themselves, the things they think that can't and I am sure ham is high on that list.

GrantGMcgowan profile image

GrantGMcgowan 5 years ago

Looks like yummy, thanks for the recipe.

dot 5 years ago

Can you leave the skin on the pork before you brine? I would like to have the crackling

rd4man 5 years ago

Try the Buckboard Bacon cure and make some of the best bacon you ever tasted, I have pictures. Also use fresh side/pork belly and follow the instructions to the "T" and you won't be sorry..

Bartley 5 years ago

I want to find out how to cure meat in a smoke house like they did in the 40's and 50's. I understand you salt down the fresh meat first for about 5 or 6 weeks, then take the meat and wash the salt off of it, hang it and coat it with a mixture of brownsugar, red pepper and maybe syrup or molasses. I think they was something you could buy at the store to mix in with it. Then you start your fire for smoking, don't know what the temp would be and I think you smoked it for 6 or 8 days. then it will keep for 6 months before it gets strong. Can you let me know if this is right. I was a boy about 12y/o when my dad did this.

Canned Hamm 5 years ago

Great info however I've read a lot about how dangerous nitrites are. Apparently when they enter the body they form one of the most toxic carcinagens known to science!! Yes I'm sure it is minute amounts each serving, however over time or if you eat a lot of hams, you are at risk of disease/cancer.... On the other hand I'm not the biggest fan of botulism either. Surely there's a safer option besides turning muslim or jewish... anyone got a nitrite alternative?

Mark Newcombe 5 years ago

Thankyou for this very simple and life changing information.

I've just finished curing & smoking my first Hams and Ham hocks to make what has been the tastiest ham of my life.

I'll never again venture to the supermarket for ham, I'll just open the fridge door and have some ham I've made myself. Brilliant!

I've just got hold of another leg and I"m going to give the shoulder cut a whirl as well, just to see the difference.

I'll let you know how the MKII hams go.

Lars 5 years ago

Will be trying this next week!

nanapong 5 years ago

The time period to leave a loin , a leg or belly in brine seems a bit wishy washy and not uniform at all with the many receipes i've read. Does it matter if you leave it in longer. If so what would the effect be on the meat. Also the amounts of salt and insta cure for this ham receipe is not proportionate to what is recommended for the bacon receipe.

jimmy Jackson 4 years ago

I am starting from scratch using Morton' Sugar Insta-Cure. How much of the Insta-cure do I add to how much water for the brine and injection mixture? I seem to find varied answers on the net to this question.

Li Kane 4 years ago

My ham has a couple more hours in the smoker, but tried a piece about 3 hours into the smoking--a bit salty for me, hoping some of that will go away as the meat finishes smoking. But even with that, totally yummy. I'm very fortunate to have a friend with a small farm--chickens, cattle, and this year, for the first time, pigs. The chickens are free range, the cattle are pasture fed, as were the pigs, once they were big enough to not get through the fence. I bought a share in a cow earlier this year, and bought a whole pig, paid for the feed and butchering, and picked it up 2 weeks ago. I have another ham, plus side meat for bacon. I think I'll use apple in the smoker for those, and substitute maple syrup for part of the sugar in brining the bacon. And why I see no reason why white sugar can't be substituted for brown, as it's a lot cheaper, you can make brown sugar at home. Just put white sugar in a food processor, and put in enough unsulphured molasses to turn it to brown sugar. Don't know offhand the exact amount, I winged it for this ham. I'm sure the exact proportions can be searched on-line.

Dave Covin 4 years ago

Hi, John,

Great post. I am definitely going to try it. How did you arrive at your cure time of 2 # a day? The information I got from the University of Oklahoma says 3 1/2 to 4 days per pound. That is a huge range. Did you inject your ham, or just depend on immersion?

robin h 4 years ago

I just did the Wet Cure and then a dry cure from a defrosted pork, and then hung it up my chimney (old english house!) to smoke.

I've just cooked it but I'm wondering whether I can refreeze it, or whether it will keep in the fridge until Boxing Day (day after Christmas Day)

Many thanks,


A shot in the dark 4 years ago

I decided to experiment with your recipe this Xmas, but I think I may have made a big mistake.

I put it in the fridge and the brine got around 38 degrees so I took it out for a bit to let the temperature raise. I forgot it and left it out for 7 hours.

I put it back in the fridge as soon as I foundit, is it ruined? Should I throw it out? Or will the curing salts/ nitrate make it ok? Please help!!!

sweetie of cebu city philippines 4 years ago

is it still safe if the ham i am curing was cured for 3 weeks? help!!!!!im afraid of botulism and concentration of the nitrite in the meat...

Jennifer Mondora (Australia) 4 years ago

Hi Guys, I have bought my leg of pork but it is much smaller. I am about to start the brining and will follow the recipe to a T except for this pink salt. We do have pink salt naturally in Australia. Will that do or will I use a professional brining mix. I have a schmickey new electronic smoker and have done some beautiful smoked salmon and Barramundi to die for using rum and maple syrup with Alder wood for smoking. I can do shop marinated pork ribs in with this. Beautiful! I will report back on how this works out. Our outside temperature is 34.5 CELCIUS Bloody hot hence the electronics for control. Wish me luck-pork is expensive here!

guest 4 years ago

Great information.

I was reading about the dangers of nitrite and have to say that at the amounts your using you would have to eat 12lbs plus in your mouth at the same time to be dangerous. nitrite converts in your body so fast that it would have to be really high. As a carcinogen it only becomes dangerous in bacon because ppl tend to fry bacon at extreme temperatures. I believe it's around 700 degrees that it gets dangerous so most governments require by law that stores keep there bacon at under 100 parts per million. Which greatly reduces the risks of cancer...

I live in Canada and I know here as I work as a cure/smokehouse operator for a small butcher shop that this is the case here.

Also since these are legislated here the government has very useful information regarding this information.

And fyi smokies and ham in Canada are allow 200 parts per million nitrite

vkyr 4 years ago

just want to be enlightened::4 tsp praque powder #1(7 lbs pork?); my case i put 10tsp praque powder#1 @ 7 lbs pork..have undergone rinsing the cured ham 3 times,soaked to warm water,boiled,and cooked in pineapple juice,etc..until now i haven't eaten yet the's just in the freezer, afraid of overdosing praque..pls advise...thanks

Red Keg Will 4 years ago

I am a sufferer of CHF and Hypertension. As such I am limited to 1000mg Na/day. To this end I make Na free bread, sausages, dips, mayonassise, spice mixes, and the only item I haven't worked out is a taste alike ham. Since all my meat products are immediately frozen after production I'm not concerned about long term room temp or reefer temp storage. I have the nitrates and FD&C #3 (the pink color in the pink salts)available I'm wondering if I can delete the salt and use the sugar as carrier of the nitrate and pink colorant? I Know it won't taste salty but hopefully an appropriate spice mix will take its place

Lamb Lover... 4 years ago

I recent had my first taste of lamb ham...yes I know what you're thinking. Anyway, I did a made a dry curing rub without potassium nitrate and placed lamb in sealed plastic bag in drawer in frig in my creative attempt at making my own lamb ham. It's been 5 days and now there is liquid in the bag. Did I fail at my attempt? The lamb doesn't smell like it's spoiled. Is it okay to remove the liquid and continue the refrigerated curing processing? Help wanted...please

scjscj 4 years ago

Comment to Lamb Lover.

Can't comment on lamb, but I cure ham hocks and beef regularly in exactly the manner you describe. I always have liquid. I turn the meat daily, leave the liquid until finished and have had no problems.


lisa 3 years ago

Do I have to use nitrates to cure my own ham I have two children who are sensitive to nitrates can I use extra salt to cure the ham instead. I would to try curing my own ham to buy a ham that is organic, perservative free, nitrate free is very expansive. I hope you can help

av 2 years ago

Hi, I have started curing my ham, but I dont have an opportunity to smoke it. how would I bake it?? how much heat? how long??

your help would be greatly appreciated. thank you

paulo - philippines 2 years ago

I just bought 6.5lbs pork, followed the recipe, will inform you of the progress, by the way, i used a gallon size ziploc to keep the ham inside the fridge.

geoff 2 years ago

I don't like sweet taste, what is the effect other than taste by the sugar?

Dawn 2 years ago

Just want to say thank you for this post. My husband and I have just made our first ham for Christmas. I generally dislike ham but this was so different and wonderful. I have just bought another green ham and we are going to make another.

hideho39 2 years ago

If I wet cure a ham can I slice a piece off and eat it without further cooking?

aj 11 months ago

What would be the proporTions be for curing gammon

mike 11 months ago

Hi. I was wondering when curing do you have to inject cure around the bone?

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