Fresh Ham in the Pressure Cooker

My first pressure cooking adventure was a success! By no means perfect but the results were moist and delicious! I made a fresh half-ham seasoned with the flavors of fresh rosemary and thyme and cooking in a mixture of white wine and homemade stock. This piece of pork is the same cut as a traditional bone-in butt-ham (or you may find a shank piece) but cooks up more like a large pork roast since it is not cured (not to say that I won’t try that one day…). I served it with gravy made from the cooking liquids, scalloped mixed vegetables and mashed potatoes! Great dinner on a cold winter night and the house smells wonderful!


I received my Fagor Duo from my mom for Christmas. She has a pressure cooker and loves it so when asked if I would like for for Christmas I responded “YES!”. I did some research to figure out which one would best suit my needs and came up with the Fagor Duo. This model got top ratings from a number of sources, including being Cook’s Illustrated “Best Buy” and, as all of you should know by now, I trust their advice and recipes on all things culinary. Besides being an efficient and reliable cooker, the advantage of this particular pressure cooker is the ability to use it as a half-size pressure cooker when you purchase the 4-quart pan, onto which the pressure cooking lid also fits. There is also a steamer basket insert and a tempered glass lid that fits both the 8 and 4-quart pans so that they may be used as regular stock pots as well. These are heavy 18/10 stainless steel pieces of cookware so they should be with me for the long haul and I am ecstatic to have them in my arsenal! I decided to go with a stove-top model after reading a lot of reviews which all said that electric models tend to be less reliable, brown less efficiently and generally don’t last all that long. There were a lot of things appealing about choosing and electric model as they take all of the guess-work out of pressure cooking but with some practice I hope that this won’t be much of an issue in the future. The versatility, reliability and efficiency of the stove-top models made the decision for me. I also received a lot of helpful advice from that other cooking blog which is excellent if you haven’t checked it out! 

My plan was to make a pot roast as my first meal with the pressure cooker but the day after New Years they had a fresh half-ham marked half-off at the market so then and there I decided that plan had changed. I have never seen a fresh half-ham at my local grocery stores so I didn’t want to pass this up. 

Not really sure how to cook this, I decided that a brine would be an important first step. I brined my half ham for 24 hours which I will tell you is not enough. Better than nothing, but this piece of meat could have benefited from at least twice as long in it’s sweet and salty bath. Next time I will got with 3 days. I have read a couple of recipes online regarding brining fresh hams and 3 days seems to be a number that is recommended. I just didn’t plan ahead well-enough! So start with a brine then onto the pressure cooker! I made a paste with various seasonings and rubbed with all over my rinsed and dried pork to add more flavor and then moved onto searing it right in the pressure cooker. Searing is important so I won’t omit it next time but I will tell you it is a challenge with a large and awkward piece of meat like this. I guess the other option is to stick it under the broiler after pressure cooking to give it some color or maybe it doesn’t need the color at all… You will need a couple of sets of strong tongs to flip this bad boy with searing. SOO, after this attempted searing, add in some cooking liquid. You NEED at least 2 cups of liquid in a pressure cooker when you will be cooking a piece of protein of this size (mine was about 7 lbs.) for this long (about an hour). I used even more liquid to make it more of a braise. I’m not sure if the pork benefited from the extra liquid or not since I’ve never done this before but I thought it turned out yummy! I went with 1 cup of dry white wine and 3 cups of homemade turkey stock. I read on Miss Vickie (a very useful site regarding all things pressure-cooking) that you generally want to cook a piece of meat like this for about 13 minutes per pound. I followed this but felt that it over-cooked a touch (after carry-over cooking and all that) so in my recipe below I wrote to cook it for about 10 minutes per lb. 

After I released pressure and got the thing open I removed the ham and draining out all of the liquid into a large bowl. After the fat separated to the top of the liquid, I added 2 tbsp. of it into a medium sauce pan and made a roux by adding in 2 tbsp. of flour. After cooking that for a couple of minutes I whisked in 2 cups of the broth and cooked this until thickened for a flavorful gravy! I have saved the remaining liquid because it’s packed full of good flavor for a use that is thus-far undetermined. 🙂

You could certainly adapt this recipe for roasting, just realize it will take much longer than an hour to cook your raw half-ham, probably more like 3 hours. You could also use this recipe for a piece like a loin which is more similar to this cut than say a boston butt, which has much more connective tissue. Fresh  ham has little connective tissue and is actually quite lean, aside from the fat cap typically on the outside of it. For these reasons it is not a piece that you want to cook to death because it will not benefit in the same way a more marbled piece of meat would. It would instead become dry and stringy. So just cook it to about 145-150 degrees F. I cooked mine a bit over because I thought there was no way it could be done so quickly. Pressure cooker novice that I am, ha. I didn’t take it too far over but I will check it a bit sooner next time. It was still delicious so I’m not complaining. 🙂


Fresh Ham in the Pressure Cooker

*You will need to start the brine 3 days before cooking

Ingredients for the Brine:

  • ~8 cups cool or room temperature water (this depends on the size of your ham- take a plastic container big enough to hold the ham, place it in, fill with water to cover the ham and remove the ham- this is how much water you will need)
  • 1 cup table salt
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • Handful whole black or mixed peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp. onion powder
  • 1 tbsp. dried thyme (or 1 bunch fresh)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 fresh (RAW, uncured and un-smoked) bone-in ham (5-8 lbs.)

Ingredients for the Rub:

  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • ½ tbsp. kosher salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • ½ tbsp. dried thyme
  • ½ tbsp. dried rosemary
  • 2 tbsp. fresh parsley, roughly chopped (or 1 tbsp. dried)
  • ½ tbsp. brown sugar
  • ½ white onion, roughly chopped
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • ½ tbsp. mustard powder
  • Olive Oil

Ingredients for the Braising Liquid/Gravy:

  • 1 ½ cup dry white wine, divided
  • 3 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp. unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  • Brine the ham 3 days before you plan to cook it. Mix all brine ingredients (except the ham) in a large plastic container big enough to hold the ham and fit in your fridge. Mix until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Place ham in the solution, cover tightly and refrigerate for 3 days.



  • Take the ham out of the fridge and out of the brine at least 1 hour before you plan to cook it and rinse the brine off of it. Leave it out to come to room temperature for at least 1 hour.
  • Place rub ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse, drizzling in olive oil until it forms a paste



  • Pat your ham dry with paper towels and massage the paste all over the outside of it
  • Heat you pressure cooker on a burner over high heat with a generous drizzle of olive oil inside. Also heat a second burner over medium-low heat.
  • Sear the fat side (top) of your ham for about 5 minutes and then carefully flip with tongs so that the fat cap is upward facing. Sear for another 5 minutes
  • Pour in 1 cup of wine and 3 cups of chicken broth



  • Close the pressure cooker and bring to high pressure over high heat (how this is indicated will depend on your model, etc.)
  • Once pressure cooker as come to high pressure, move to the burner over medium-low heat and turn off the original burner. Adjust heat so that it will maintain pressure in your cooker
  • Allow to cook for about 10 minutes per pound
  • Open your pressure cooker using the quick release method and remove ham (once you have ensured it has come to temperature- ~150 degrees F- you don’t want to over-cook this cut, it will become tough). Allow to rest for 15 minutes (covered with foil) before slicing, meanwhile make the gravy



  • Drain liquid out of pan
  • Turn burner up to medium-high
  • Skim about 2 tbsp. of fat from the drained liquid and return to pan
  • Sprinkle over the flour and cook for about 2 minutes
  • Measure out 2 cups of the cooking liquid and whisk it into the flour roux in the pan. Save the remaining liquid for making soup, etc. (a lot of flavor in it- don’t dump it!)
  • Bring to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, or until thickened, whisking constantly at first to prevent lumps
  • Check for seasoning, and adjust as desired



  • Slice the ham and serve with gravy




4 responses to “Fresh Ham in the Pressure Cooker

  1. Pingback: Scalloped Vegetables | therapy bread·

  2. Pingback: Delicata, Pork and Rice Soup with Roasted Delicata Seeds | therapy bread·

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