What Is The T-Shirt Method Of Food Smoking?

Posted on: January 13, 2023

This posting is about more than offering a recipe. It is an effort to provoke new thought. To offer a new horizon, I invented the T-Shirt smoking method due to my preferences (from an anonymous source on the Bradley forums). There were times when I only wanted to “enhance” an item. Not to change it, to brine it, or to cure it. The problem was that direct smoke contact created a light bark. Thus the item was more than “enhanced.” It was changed.

I’ve tried many materials that would allow the flavoring of the smoke to pass through, without permitting direct contact. Most materials failed me. They either allowed too much contact, or they were a complete barrier. The material that I found that worked is the material of a white cotton T-Shirt. Not just any type of T-shirt. Only the type with full sleeves. The ones with no sleeves and a low neckline are woven differently and allow too much contact.

Thus a name was born: “Olds’ T-Shirt Ah Smokin’.”

I do a fair amount of hams and when I say hams, I’m not talking about a fresh ham. Curing it, smoking it, and let it hang in a house for several months, I will leave to the younger folks.

I use a full Hamilton Ham because it is very low in salt. Now, let me tell you about the T-Shirt method of smoking. That is to say that you cover the ham with a light white cotton cloth single layer, all sides. You should cut up two or three T-shirts, and then sew them into one large piece. My wood of choice is oak and smoke for 6-8 hours, depending upon how big the ham is.

Try to keep the box temp between 160-180 F. This again has to do with the size of the ham. At the 3-4 hour mark, turn the ham upside down. Make sure to empty the water bowl and refill with water at that time. I use to smoke my hams to a temp of 155-160 and remove it, even if that happened before the full smokin’ time is up.

Ham Should Not Go Above 140 F

Now, I only allow the ham to go to 140-145 degrees. It is OK to have a little lower ham temp when the smoking is over with. However, do not cook this ham in the smoker. You might have to adjust the box temp in order to get the full 6-8 hours of smoking. But do not exceed a ham temp of 145 F. (See the reason below.)

Once the smoking is done, remove the ham and remove the T-shirt. Place the T-shirt on a plastic page, if wet. Let it cool to room temp and re-wrap the ham in the T-shirt. If the T-shirt is dry, then take a clean spray bottle and mist it with clean water, until the T-shirt is wet, but no running water out of it.

Time To Go To The Fridge

Next, wrap the whole ham/ T-shirt in plastic. Place it into the fridge. Allow several days for the smoke to “cure” all the way through the ham. When ready to serve, remove ham from T-shirt and plastic wrap and “warm” it to 170-180 F in the oven at a temp of not more than 200-210 F. This will take a few hours. This is why you cannot “cook” the ham while smoking it.

You cook it twice, even at low temp, and you run the risk of a ham that will fall apart. I cannot stress this enough. You even cook the ham a little in the smoker, and when you do cook it for serving, you run a chance the ham will be over cooked and fall apart on you. Remember all store-bought hams have already been “cooked” to 150 F.

I cannot express how important it is you give a full ham several days to allow the smoke to go to the bone. Next, I never cut the ham into two pieces, when smoking it. For whatever reason, cutting them into two has never worked out for me. That’s all about the ham T-shirt method of food smoking! For more savory food smoking tips & tricks, remember to visit our Bradley Smoker Blog!