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”

37 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.

  11. Just came across your web site. Really enjoy the back and forth you have with those who have questions.
    If I lived in Texas , I would be a customer. I am fortunate to get fresh hams from a farmer in Illinois who raised Berkshire pigs. I get hams from him which are very good. Haven’t tried your recipe yet but I will.
    Thank you for all the information you provided.

    • Hello Kathie! You could cook this smaller roast in a smaller baking pan, possibly 9″ rather than 13″. Cut the cooking time to about an hour.

      You may also look at this ham roast recipe we wrote for THE BEND Magazine (turn to page 74) that would work nicely for a smaller roast. All the best to you Kathie!

  12. Hi there. We just recently purchased and butchered a hog. I’d like to cook a roast tomorrow yet I’m confused as to soak in pink salt or not to. I’ve read some of the Q & A’s above and it says that you can, but not that you “have to.” I bought some pink salt a year or two ago as I was gifted some fresh pork. is it a need or just an enhancer? Thanks in advance

    • Hello Patti! You don’t “have to” brine your pork (that is, soak it overnight in salt). Your pork will be just fine if you do not. But, we find the results are so much better in tenderness and flavor, that we brine every cut of pork we prepare. We will even change up our dinner plans to give a roast time to brine. It takes a little time and planning, and just a little preparation, but it is worth it.

      You could experiment with the many roasts you will get from your hog. Brine one and not the next, and see what you think. Let us know the results! Thank you Patti! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

    • I brine my pork chops in apple juice with some seasonings (smokey flavors) it only needs a bout 4 hours in the fridge – they are so juicy after cooking

  13. Hi there! So glad to have found your recipe! My husband came home from our local farmer’s market this weekend with our holiday ham! Unfortunately, it wasn’t what I was expecting to make our Christmas meal with! It’s flat with a bone in the center and labeled “fresh ham roast” (uncured). Looks just like your ham here! I know it’s pastured and a good cut of meat based on the farmer he got it from. It’s nearly 4 pounds with a little fat on the side. I wanted to make a Honey Glazed Roasted Ham, but had no idea how I could do it with this cut of ham! I already have it brining (started the brining today before I found your recipe!) in a half and half mixture of some pineapple and pear juice, along with a little garlic, onion, sea salt, and fresh rosemary. Can I still cook it according to your recipe here for Christmas morning or can I roast it like I was going to with a traditional ham? I actually planned to roast/cook it on Christmas Eve, so all I had to do was put it out on Christmas morning with biscuits for our brunch. Thanks for any help/advice you can give!

    • Hello Amy! You can definitely cook your ham using this recipe. Since you have already brined the roast, you don’t need to add salt at any point until the ham is on the table. When you ask if you can roast it like a traditional ham, do you mean a cured pre-cooked ham? How long would you cook it, at what temperature? Traditional hams give off a lot of liquid; in a pastured ham you may have to add a little liquid due to the leanness of the pork.

      You might also try an herbed ham roast recipe we published in THE BEND Magazine. Click here for that recipe, and turn to page 74:

      This recipe may be a little closer to what you are looking for. We are so excited for your Christmas brunch! What a delicious brunch and fun day that will be!

      • OH! Thank you so much for your reply!!! Yes, I was hoping to roast it more like a pre-cooked ham, but use a pastured ham shank instead, hence the brining. Unfortunately, poor hubby didn’t realize the “fresh ham roast” he got wasn’t the same thing. 🙂

        Here’s how I was hoping to cook our pastured fresh ham roast:

        1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. 2. Place the ham, with the fat and skin facing up, in a roasting pan. 3. Roast the ham in the oven for 8 hours (for a 6-8 lb ham), or about an hour per pound. The ham is done when it reaches an internal temperature of145-150 degrees F and the meat begins to loosen around the bone. 4. For the glaze, whisk together the honey and juices (pear and pineapple) in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, uncovered, over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 7-8 minutes, or until liquid is thickened and reduced by half. Remove from the heat, cover, and refrigerate until the ham is finished cooking. 5. When the ham is finished, remove it from the oven. Brush the glaze over the top, and increase the heat to 400 degrees F. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the glaze has browned and caramelized. Remove the ham, and let it rest 10 minutes before carving.

        Of course, there is no fat to score on the top with the “ham roast” and I would not want to cut directly into the skin for fear of losing valuable juices from the meat and making it dry, but I could be wrong there…I’ve only cooked one ham in my lifetime and it was a cured/precooked ham! LOL
        Thank you for the Herbed ham roast recipe! That looks so good! It looks like it too would be more for a ham shank though, rather than the “fresh ham roast” like here in your recipe above. I will most likely just cook it per your instructions in the recipe here and take your suggestion of leaving off the salt.
        What are your reheating recommendations (if any) if I cook it a day ahead? Or can I serve it at room temp once cooked?

        Thank you so much again for your reply and help! I can’t wait to report back! 🙂

        ~Merry Christmas

  14. I tried your recipe for the flat cut fresh pork. It was a very dry piece of meat…I mean really, really dry. the water was just about the same level as when I put it in the oven. Not tender at all!!! Now let me tell you why… we bought whole pig from someone the neighbors know raises them, this was sometime last year. The pig weighed in at around 300 lbs…a little heavy in my opinion and probably too old. I noticed on the packaging today that it was processed in 2020 so over 3years ago. I’m sure the failure of tender and texture was no fault of your recipe. We were set to have a wonderful dinner according to all the great reviews on your blog. It didn’t happen!!! Some day I might try your recipe again but I’m sure it won’t be very soon! Thank you for the recipe, no fault of yours!!! I just had to gripe!

    • Hello, Karen! A three year old ham?! That is much too old to eat! The USDA issues guidelines for food safety. One year is the longest they recommend keeping meet frozen. I don’t like eating anything older than six months. That ham must have been dry as a bone. Plus, it must have had a funky, rancid taste. No recipe in the world is going to fix a dried out, freezer burned cut of meat. I hope you partner with a great local farmer and get some really good pork and try again. Have a wonderful and blessed day!

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