A big ham makes an impressive centerpiece for a lavish meal, but it can be inconvenient for everyday occasions. A smaller smoked picnic ham, averaging 3 to 5 pounds, can be a more practical option. They're prepared like regular hams and taste much the same, but they're cut from the smaller muscles of the front shoulder, rather than from the hip like a true ham. One advantage of their smaller size is that they can be prepared in a pressure cooker, making them even faster and more convenient to cook.
Rinse any brine from the surface of your smoked bone-in picnic ham, then pat it dry with clean paper towels. Trim away the fat cap and any skin with a sharp knife. It's not needed, since pressure-cooking won't dry the ham as baking does.
Inspect the pressure cooker's gasket to ensure it isn't cracked or buckled, then check the lid to verify that the pressure gauge and steam valves move freely and are free of any food debris. Place the rack in the bottom of your pressure cooker.
Pour in 2 cups of water. For a more flavorful ham, you can use other liquids, such as apple juice, cider or white wine; you can also add herbs or spices to the cooking liquid. Place your bone-in picnic ham on the rack, and lock the lid onto the pressure cooker.
Bring the pressure cooker quickly to a boil over a hot burner, then close the valve. Once the cooker's pressure gauge reaches 15 psi, begin timing and reduce the heat until it's just high enough to maintain your 15 psi pressure.
Cook the picnic for approximately 35 minutes if it's a small 3-pounder, or up to 45 minutes for a large 5-pound cut. Remove the pressure cooker from the stovetop and let it cool until the pressure releases on its own. Open the lid and remove the ham. Let it rest for at least five to 10 minutes before carving and serving.
- If you'd like your picnic to have an oven-caramelized glaze, brush your favorite glaze onto the surfaces of the ham after it comes out of the pressure cooker. Slide it into an oven preheated to 450 degrees Fahrenheit for five to 10 minutes, or until the glaze reaches the right color and consistency.
- A picnic ham that's fully cooked and in its original packaging is ready to eat when it reaches an internal temperature of 140 F. If it was cut and repackaged at the store, it should be heated to an internal temperature of 160 F. This takes approximately 4 to 5 minutes longer in your pressure cooker.
Fred Decker is a trained chef and prolific freelance writer. In previous careers, he sold insurance and mutual funds, and was a longtime retailer. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. His articles have appeared on numerous home and garden sites including GoneOutdoors, TheNest and eHow.