Fresh Ham Roast Recipe

Add this level of water

The following recipe is my all-time favorite for our fresh ham roasts.  Preparation time is less than 15 minutes.  Cooking time is 2 hours 20 minutes.  If you manage to save any of this roast, the left-overs are wonderful.

Fresh bone-in ham has not been cured or processed in any way.  Our ham and picnic roasts are cut by the butcher to a thickness of three inches.  These roasts are moist, tender, flavorful, and incredibly delicious.  Try this recipe for a new family favorite.  


  • one 3 to 5 pound fresh ham or picnic roast
  • about 2 to 3 cups water
  • salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste
  • aluminum foil

To prepare:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place pork roast in a 13×9 inch pan or glass baking dish.  Generously sprinkle salt and pepper to taste over  both sides of ham roast.  I also sprinkle two or three teaspoons of crushed red pepper over the roast.

Pour 2 to 3 cups of water into the pan (the water level should come about an inch up the side of the roast).  Cover the pan tightly with foil and place in the oven for 2 hours.  The water steams the roast as it cooks, and keeps the roast very moist.  Do not let the water cook all the way out.

At the end of 2 hours, increase the oven to 450 degrees and remove the foil from the pan.  Place the roast back in the oven for another 20 minutes.  Turn the roast after 10 minutes to make sure both sides brown evenly.  Ideally, the water will cook almost, but not all the way, out.

Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes.   Spoon the juices in the bottom of the pan over the finished roast.  The roast is ready to serve.

To serve as a “New Year’s Ham”, place the roast on a serving platter.  Slice the roast across the grain and serve.

To create “pulled pork”, simply shred the roast with your fingers.  (See Pulled Pork Sandwich Recipe for serving suggestions).

Slice ham or shred for “pulled pork”

18 responses

  1. I am cooking a 15# ham roast that the butcher secured with a twine “net”. Would I cook it the same as this recipe?


    • We do not cook hams that big (15 pounds) with this recipe. We prefer to cook a larger shoulder roast wrapped in foil on our commercial gas grill for up to 6 or 7 hours on low indirect heat, and add smoking wood chips for the last 10 to 20 minutes. My wife’s homemade bbq sauce finishes it perfectly.

      Is your ham from a “conventional” or “pastured” hog? If it comes from a butcher, it is almost certainly conventional pork. A ham this big from a conventional hog will be very fatty all the way through. Use a deep pan, as you will have an excess of oily liquid filling up the pan from melted fat. Please be aware that the anti-biotics, steriods, and hormones given to conventional hogs are more concentrated in the animal’s fat. We hope you can find a “pastured” ham in your area.

      A fifteen pound “pastured” ham may take up to 5 hours to cook, depending on thickness. Pastured pork is relatively lean, so you may have to add some liquid during the roasting time. Make sure it is wrapped in foil, so the thinner part of the ham does not dry out as the thicker part cooks through. A meat thermometer inserted at the thickest part of the ham (without touching the bone) should read 140 degrees or higher for the ham to be fully cooked. Good luck and happy eating!

  2. Hi There,
    I found your recipe online while I was searching for a recipe for a fresh boneless pork ham roast. It’s a slab cut, only 1.5 inches at thickest part in middle. After reading the newest Wise Traditions magazine, I now know I need to marinate or cure the roast 1st before cooking it. Do you have suggestions on marinades/cures & lengths of time for that, as well as how to cook this type of ham roast?

    Your roasts look beautiful. Do you ever ship to CA?


    • You must be careful not to dry out a relatively thin cut ham. Wrap the ham in foil to help hold in moisture. Check with a meat thermometer after an hour in the oven. When the ham reaches 140 degrees internal temperature, the ham is done.

      Sometimes you find a thin cut ham that is very large in diamter. For example, the ham is much bigger around than a dinner plate, but only an inch or so in thickness. The reason for this is that the ham was cut from high on the back leg, where the diameter is greatest. However, to keep the total weight of the ham to less than five pounds (and so to keep the overall cost down), the cut must be very thin. This cut of fresh ham is great to “stuff”, where the ham is folded over a stuffing recipe, wrapped with twine, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and baked in the oven.

      You do not need to marinade or cure a fresh ham roast before cooking. Fresh ham has a wonderful flavor and texture on its own. In fact, a cure or marinade will often diminish the taste of a fresh ham. We tried a marinade from a box in the grocery store, and felt like it ruined our wonderful ham. We tried another very high quality marinade given to us by a chef, and felt like the ham was good, but still not as good our regular ham without marinade. Try this recipe on a fresh ham first without a marinade, and see what you think. If you use a bbq sauce or other dressing, simply add it on the plate.

      However, brining your ham may give you very good results. Brine is a mixture of salt and water–you soak the ham in the brine for a specified period. Brining seasons the pork while enhancing the natural flavor and improving the texture of the ham. Brining “unwinds” the protien strands, causing water to be trapped in the muscle and making the meat juicier, more tender, and more flavorful. For a bigger ham, you should use less salt and a longer soak time. The reason for this is to let the solution penetrate the ham evenly all the way to the bone without making the outside too salty. Smaller hams require more salt and a shorter soak time.

      Brining is more art than exact science; various roasts need different amounts of salt and soak time. For a 3 pound fresh ham, dissolve about 1/2 to 3/4 cup salt in a large pot filled with enough water to completely cover the ham. Let the ham soak covered in the fridge for up to 6 hours. Remove from fridge, rinse completely, pat dry with a napkin, and then cook with this recipe. (Note: Don’t be afraid of the salt and soak time, but try not to brine the ham overnight, or it may be too salty, and possibly dry out in the oven.) Experiment with salt and soaking time, adding salt to the mixure next time, or soaking longer, until it is perfect.

      Our pork is state inspected in Texas and we can’t sell it across state lines. But I am sure a local farmer would love to have your business, and your family would certainly benefit from a good relationship with a local farmer. Thanks for your nice comments! Happy eating!

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  6. Oh my gravy, that is good! Just roasted up a 5# bone-in roast from my local farmer and followed your recipe…Admittedly, I tweaked a bit; rubbed with a balsamic glaze and a local honey mustard before cooking and it came out deliciously! Plus, my house smells amazing.
    A note, the hour @450 resulted in a little over-browning, but it’s not too bad. I would probably keep a better eye on it next time, and maybe reduce that final cooking time to 15-20 mins.
    Thanks for the good eats!!

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  8. We live in Sierra Leone and our neighbor is slaughtering some pigs tomorrow. I am craving pork loin roast and ham. Tell me, would the pork loin roast be from across the back and would the ham (like a picnic ham) be from one of the legs? What do I need to do to the meat if anything before cooking it? I appreciate your guidance and help with this. Thank you.

    • Hello Ruth! The pork loin is from across the top of the back. The loin is a tube of muscle running along either side of the backbone, next to the ribs. The loin is typically very lean. When we butcher porkers, we have a choice of taking the loin, or taking pork chops. If you would like both a loin and pork chops from the hog, the butcher can take the loin from one side, and pork chops from the other.

      A picnic roast is actually from the shoulder of the hog (the front leg), and is also called a pork shoulder. The “ham” comes from the back leg. There are several ways and sizes to cut both picnic roasts and hams; although, in truth, there is not a great deal of difference in the actual pork itself. Depending on how the picnic roast or ham is cut, there may be more or less fat (usually the picnic has a little more fat) and more or less bone in the cut. We like to have bone in our roast, as well as a little fat, to add flavor to the roast as it cooks.

      To prepare your pork for cooking, you might try brining it. See the comments further up on this post for tips on brining. Basically, you might soak a four or five pound ham overnight covered completey with a mixture water and one cup of salt. The brine creates a more tender, juicy, and flavorful roast. We hope you are having a wonderful day in Sierra Leone! Please let us know how your pork turns out!

  9. Thanks so much! I was only able to get a very small pork loin and then some ribs. We’re not having them for Easter because it won’t be enough for our guests. They will be slaughtering another pig in November, but we may ask them to hold one for us until we return from our leave and then buy the whole pig so we can get what we want and fill our freezer. Your website is great and response was very helpful. Thanks so much. Happy Easter!

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    • Hello Josh! We cook in a crock pot pretty often, but usually we do not put our hams into the crock pot. We have cooked many hams in the crock pot, but they never seem to come out nearly as well, no matter how we dress them up, as when we cook them in the oven. All the best to you Josh! Enjoy this beautiful day!

      • I had one a little over 7# I put in the crock pot on low for about 16 hours with just a little vinegar and red pepper. I flipped it over so it didn’t dry out one side and it made some really great BBQ.

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