I Ham What I Ham

Looking back at my 30 plus year reign of tyranny against the Sears Roebuck BBQ department, I can state with authority that one of the quickest ways to shorten a BBQ’s life expectancy is cooking Hams.

I got the whole idea from my father which may sound strange seeing that throughout the 72 years he spent walking on the planet he never went near a BBQ once. Let me explain.

My formative years were spent living in a large rural pub about 15 miles from Oxford.


It was what is known as a tithed house. In simple terms the Brewery owned it, and all beer and liquor had to be purchased through them. In effect this was a type of price fixing and limited the profit potential of the pub owner. The owner could of course sell the product at whatever price he or she chose, but common sense dictated that you had to be competitive with the other Pubs in the area.

The one avenue open for expanding profits was food. My father decided that Ham was the way to do this. I have griped about Ham before, you can read the story here.

Gus had a deceptively simple technique. The key to the operation was a re-purposed 1950’s Baby Burco Washboiler.


This device was originally designed for boiling clothes, specifically soiled diapers. How he became the proud owner of such a beast is steeped in mystery, but it became a major feature of the kitchen.

Into this monster he would place a ‘Green Gammon’.

This picture is not a Green Gammon, but it reflects the size.


Essentially this was an uncooked ham that had spent some quality time in a cold-room.

Cover the ham with water, pour a half gallon of Strongbow Cider (hard cider), and let the beast boil gently for several hours.

Once cool it was a piece of cake to remove the chewy outer layer of skin, sprinkle on some bread crumbs, and you had a product worthy of the finest Deli.

At some point in the 1980’s I took my fathers idea and wanted to replicate it. Alas 1950’s Baby Burco’s were in short supply in North America. The second problem was that the butcher in my local mega mart thought I was from Mars when I asked if they had any ‘Green Gammons’. The final nail in the coffin was the unavailability of Strongbow Cider!


It was time for plan B. The hams in the supermarket suck, they are pre-cooked, and have water and salt injected into them, and are essentially tasteless.

A new form of BBQ torture was invented!

Take one of those pre-cooked hams and place it in a large pot, cover it with Apple juice, and stick it in the refrigerator over night. The Apple juice performs a great task, it pulls the sodium out.

About an hour before the BBQ destruction begins, extract the ham and place it in an oven pan large enough to hold it. Generally I select the one that is my wifes favorite, the one that I have promised not to destroy.

Next, take the other good pan that is now full of Apple Juice and ham stuff outside to the BBQ. Add to it a whole shwack of Mesquite wood chips. They need at least 45 minutes to soak, we want smoke not flames.

The cooking technique is what I like to call ‘Indirect Heat BBQ Destruction’. The standard two burner Sears Roebuck special generally also has two grates for the food. Remove the left grate, and put the left burner on Warp 10. Close the lid and let it warm up.

After 10 minutes stick the nervous ham on the right grate, throw in a couple of handfuls of the apple infused mesquite, close the lid and open a beer.

Based on a beer every 20 minutes, you will repeat this process for a six pack. Two handfuls of mesquite, one beer wait 20 mins and repeat six times.

You will have the best tasting ham in the world. Hot, I like it with a Parsley Sauce, cold, it is wonderful on French Bread,

OK, so where does BBQ destruction enter the picture? You have already set the wheels in motion. If you were silly enough to buy a BBQ with one of those pointless windows in the front, you will notice that it is now not functioning. It is so smoke encrusted that you will never look through it again.

But the real fun is yet to come. And it is a pay now or pay later deal. Either way it is great fun.

Hams always have a great deal of fat on them. Throughout the cooking process the fat has rendered. It is now loving life saturated into the Lava rocks on the right hand side of the BBQ.

I did say that this was a now or later problem, but personally I think it is better dealing with it now, you have the Six-Pack of beer inside you to cushion your nerves.

Stick the right hand burner on, and stand back. If you have done your job well, the flames should be in the 4-6 feet region, and the dense black smoke visible by passing aircraft at 30,000 feet.

This simple tip will shorten the life of any Sears Roebuck BBQ.

In the early 90’s I discovered that BBQ destruction was not just a game that could be played at home!

I arrived home one day and my ex-wife told me that we had been invited to a BBQ. I said great! But there was a catch, they wanted the yummy ham, and they wanted me to cook it. “great, no problem”, was my response. Gill and Steve had just purchased a wonderful house complete with swimming pool and hot tub. I’d be happy to oblige.

“Just don’t wreck their brand new BBQ”

I promised to be on my best behavior. To sweeten the deal I said that I would bring the ham, and we would be all set.

We turned up with all the stuff, The big pot with the ham bathing in apple juice, and a bag of mesquite chips.

It was clear that this BBQ was a virgin. It was in showroom condition. They had even strategically placed some small pieces of foil paper to catch drips. My guess was that it had never done anything but gently warm up a few Hot Dogs.

Hell, you could even see through the front glass window!

My ex-wife went into high gear, entreating the people to not let me near their newest possession. They were instant, they wanted a Simon ham.

The rest, as they say is history!

Simon Barrett

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