Why Do My Smoked Ribs Taste Like Ham? [What To Do About It?]

Having a family barbecue in the sun is a great way to spend a day off, and smoked ribs are a great part of that experience. However, sometimes something goes wrong, and your smoked ribs taste like ham. While ham has its place, this is not even a good ham flavor! So why do smoked ribs sometimes taste like ham?

Smoked pork ribs taste like ham due to the long cooking process, salt, and smoke curing the meat. You can avoid it by salting ribs just before smoking, avoiding enhanced pork, and not cooking overly low and slow. Too much smoke, especially hickory or mesquite, can cause this problem.

why do my smoked ribs taste like ham

If you have cooked hammy ribs, you have undoubtedly discovered that it is not a good flavor. And it causes much disappointment among your guests and undermines your pit master cred. But this problem relates to pork curing and is a preventable problem. So let’s look at how you can avoid hammy ribs.

How Smoked Ribs Can Cure Like Ham

The effect of a lot of salt sitting for too much time on pork is that it cures. Although this is not the same as a nitrite cure, it nevertheless creates a hammy taste in the meat. Despite this taste being desirable if you make ham or bacon, it is not what you are looking for when you smoke ribs.

There are various ways that this problem can arise. One of the ways is if you use too much salt in your rub. Another is if you leave the salt on for too long, for example, overnight. The two together have been responsible for many incidents of hammy-tasting smoked ribs.

Cooking for too long at too low a temperature also causes this problem, giving the meat time to cure. 

Another prevalent way the problem can arise is when you use enhanced pork for smoked ribs. The salt content also results in the pork curing in the smoker, resulting in a hammy taste.

Why You Should Avoid Enhanced Pork When Smoking Ribs

The belief, widespread in the US, that healthy eating means eating low fat has led to a demand for low-fat pork over the past couple of decades.

As a result, the pork industry raises pigs with lower fat content in their meat. However, less fat means less flavor and less moisture. In conjunction with the tendency many people have of badly overcooking pork and drying it out, the result was pork that did not live up to people’s expectations.

The pork industry reacted to these trends by finding a way to provide low-fat pork that was nevertheless moist and would stand up to prolonged cooking. The solution they came up with is “enhanced pork.” 

Enhanced pork is soaked in a solution of water, sodium chloride (table salt), sodium lactate, potassium lactate, sodium phosphate, sodium diacetate, and natural or artificial flavoring agents. The resulting liquid is close to the brine used to cure ham (albeit without nitrites). 

The result is pork that is dangerously close to being ham already. Combine it with prolonged cooking in a smoker, and the result is hammy smoked ribs.

The Effect Of Hickory And Mesquite Smoke On Ribs

Although it should not be a problem if you avoid the other risk factors mentioned above, some barbecuers have noticed that using too much hickory or mesquite wood when smoking can result in a hammy taste to the ribs.

The unique aromatic compounds in these types of wood cause the meat to develop a distinctive flavor. Although this flavor may strike some palates as resembling ham, it is more likely that problems with the meat’s salt content are causing the hammy taste.

How To Prevent Your Smoked Ribs From Tasting Like Ham

In light of the information we’ve given you about how smoked ribs can end up tasting like ham, there are several ways to prevent this unpleasant situation from happening to you again. 

Salt Your Ribs Late Before Smoking To Prevent A Hammy Taste

Because salt has a curing effect on pork, and the result of curing is a hammy taste, it stands to reason that the longer the salt sits on the pork, the more pronounced the curing effect will be. A rack of ribs is thin, and seasoning it with a rub and letting it stand overnight will result in the pork curing.

To prevent this, salt your ribs before putting them into the smoker. To flavor the meat nicely, a rub doesn’t have to be on the ribs for ages.

Smoke Your Ribs Hotter To Prevent A Hammy Taste

Barbecue is cooked low and slow, but you should not be taking more than 6 hours to cook ribs. Set up your smoker to cook 3-2-1 ribs and follow that time frame correctly. Cooking your ribs low and slow will result in a hammy taste to the ribs. 

What’s more, if you cook for too long, which you can only achieve at too low a temperature, the fat in the ribs will not render well, and you will end up with fatty ribs. Cooking ribs for 9 hours is a recipe for fatty, hammy ribs.

Other Ways To Prevent Hammy Tasting Smoked Ribs

Because of how salt left sitting on pork will cause it to cure, the salts in enhanced pork automatically cure the meat. Avoid enhanced pork if you do not want hammy-tasting smoked ribs.

You can also try using different wood to smoke the meat. For example, try oak, apple, or cherry instead of hickory or mesquite.

Final Word

If you have had smoked ribs come out tasting like ham, and not very good ham at that, don’t despair! You can fix this problem and have your ribs taste delicious as ribs should.

Avoid enhanced meat, avoid salting the pork too far in advance, and do not cook too low and too slow, and you should avoid the issue of hammy-tasting ribs. If that still doesn’t work, try using a different wood instead of hickory or mesquite.

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