How Much Salt Is Removed by Soaking Ham

Have you ever wondered how much salt is removed from ham when soaked in water?

If so, you’re not alone; it is always better to remove excess salt if possible!

But how much of the sodium content will you remove by soaking?

And does this depend on the type of ham and the curing process?

Let’s explore how much salt can be removed by soaking and the best way to do it.

How Much Does Soaking Ham Reduce the Salt Content?

The amount of salt removed by soaking depends largely on a few factors.

What type of curing process did the ham undergo?

How long it has been in contact with the curing solution or mixture?

We will go into details about this further.

Soaking all types of ham in cool water for several hours on average will remove 20% to 60%.


The Difference Of Salting With A Wet Cure & Dry Cure 

The amount of salt in your ham depends on the way the piece of meat was cured.

There are 2 popular methods of curing traditional country ham.

Wet curing is submerging the ham in a simple brine solution of cold water and salt.

Dry curing is when nitrite salt covers the ham’s outer layer of fat.

Both have benefits and varying levels of sodium absorption.

Soaking Wet Cured Ham

Wet-cured ham will have a high rate of salt penetration and water content.

This is because a salt brine solution permeates through the raw meat easily.

This being said, you would expect to soak a wet cured ham for longer.

On average, soaking wet-cured ham will take 8 hours or even overnight.

You may also have to replace the soaking water repeatedly with fresh water.

Note: Be aware of oversoaking brined ham as the meat can end up soggy.

Tip: Standard tap water is fine for soaking.

Grab a container big enough for your ham and test how many cups of water you will need!

Around 50% of excess sodium will be removed when soaking for up to 8 hours.


Soaking Dry Cured Ham

Dry-cured ham has a higher degree of saltiness and nitrates on the outer layer of fat.

The cure ingredients weren’t dissolved in liquid.

This means they were less likely to fully permeate the lean meat.

Therefore it doesn’t require a longer soaking time for the amounts of salt and nitrates to be removed.

On average, soaking dry-cured ham will take 3 hours.

Note: Check the ingredients for flavorings you don’t want to lose when soaking.

An example might be brown sugar on the meat surface which can always be reintroduced later.

Tip: You can add your aromatics to the soaking water!

Think ginger ale or even a bay leaf.

The Types of Ham to Soak for Removing Salt

Below are the popular types of ham you may want to consider smoking.

– Whole cuts of Country hams (like Smithfield Hams or Father’s Country Hams)

– Salted Gammon Ham is typically cut from the hind leg.

– Ham Hock which is cut from the shank of the leg.

Look For a Low Sodium Ham

If you don’t want to go thought the process of soaking your ham to remove salt you can buy a low sodium ham. Here are some options for low sodium ham.

Food Safety Advice When Soaking Ham

– Use fresh and clean cold running water.

Do not use hot water to soak the ham (this will cause a rise in temp and accelerate bacterial growth)

– Be aware of cross-contamination with surfaces and utensils (wash with soapy water straight away)

– Handle the ham on a flat surface to avoid slippage and personal injury

– Refrigerate the ham when soaking and do not leave at room temp for longer than 60 minutes.

– Replace the soaking water every 120 minutes.

– Sodium nitrates can react with metal and plastics so use a glass container when possible.


Are There Types of Cured Ham You Shouldn’t Soak?

Smaller cuts of salty meat can be referred to as ham depending on the country.

Antipasti or thinner cuts like bacon, pancetta, or speck do not need to be soaked.

The focus today is whole cuts of traditional holiday hams.

Why Shouldn’t You Soak These Cuts of Cured Pork?

It is not worth the short soaking time for these types of cured pork.

Plus they are meant to be salty and used sparingly in recipes.

Why Consider Reducing Your Sodium Intake?

Reducing your sodium intake is beneficial.

It can help to lower your blood pressure and reduces the risk of developing certain chronic illnesses.

Additionally, reducing salty food intake can also help you maintain a healthy weight.

It leaves you feeling full for longer periods and improves digestion.

Don’t crave a salty snack like the food industry wants you to!

Step-By-Step Guide on How to Soak Ham in Water

Before following my guide you should check a few things first!

– Check you are planning on soaking the right type of ham.

– Look at the salt values and type of curing in the ingredient list.

Gather the required materials to be prepared.

– Allow yourself enough time before you plan on cooking.

– Know the basic food safety guidelines and adhere to them!


Step 1 – Preparation for Soaking Ham to Reduce the Sodium Level

Gather your required equipment and clear the working area.

– Check the ham fits in your container while it is packaged.

Remove the packaging from the ham.

Pat down with a paper towel to remove any lingering salt crystals or dry salt on the surface.

Step 2 – Soak the Ham to Reduce the Sodium Level

Fill your container with cold clean water from the tap halfway.

Submerge the ham and then wash down the exposed top with the water.

– Safely dump out the water and then reintroduce fresh water to fully submerge the ham.

– Refrigerate and replace the water every 2 hours. (The soaking time will vary on how the ham is cured)

Remove the water and pat down excess moisture on the surface.

Smoke On!


Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).

I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling recipes with you!

You can read more about me on our About Us page.

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