Tasso ham is a Cajun-style cured meat that resembles small, spicy country hams. You can dice it up and mix it into eggs, red beans and rice, jambalaya, or throw a few chunks into a pot of beans or collard greens to add a nice smoky Cajun kick.
One really nice thing about it is that it’s cheap. It’s just a chopped up pork shoulder that’s cured with spicy Cajun seasonings. Pork shoulder is one of the cheapest cuts of meat you can get at the store.
All you need to make this recipe happen is some pink curing salt, some seasonings, a wireless meat thermometer, a barbecue pit, and some time.
How to Make Tasso Ham
Tasso is generally made out of a pork shoulder-blade roast. Sometimes called a pork butt or boston butt.
It actually isn’t a pig’s butt though. It is a pig’s front shoulder and includes the shoulder-blade bone.
This recipe calls for a 5 or 6 pound pork shoulder, but you can do up to 7 pounds without making any adjustments to the amount of seasoning.
To get your pork butt ready to break down, first you want to trim some of the fat off of the outside.
Don’t try to get it all off, but get as much as you can without cutting down into the meat.
Next, cut it into approximately 3 inch by 3 inch chunks. Don’t worry about getting it perfect though. This recipe is very forgiving.
You’ll also be removing the shoulder blade bone in the process of cutting it up.
Any trimmed off meat and fat can be frozen for later use in things like gravies or rendering for frying.
Now, you need to make your Tasso seasoning.
- 4 tbs. paprika
- 4 tbs. Morton’s Kosher Salt
- 2 tbs. cayenne (adjust down if you don’t want it spicy)
- 2 tbs. onion powder
- 2 tbs. granulated garlic
- 1 tbs. dark brown sugar
- 1 tbs. granulated white sugar
- 1 tbs. chipotle powder
- 1 tbs. black pepper
- 1 tbs. dried sage
- 1 tsp. ground cloves
- 1 tsp. pink curing salt
Combine all the ingredients and mix very well. It is highly recommended that you use a wire whisk to ensure that the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.
Related: Learn to make your own bacon.
Next, roll each pork chunk in the seasoning until it is completely covered. When that’s done add whatever seasoning you have left to the bowl with your seasoned pork chunks and toss.
You want to be sure to use all of the seasoning.
Now, separate the Tasso chunks into three separate gallon sized zip-top bags. Use the water displacement method in your sink to remove as much air as possible prior to sealing them (dunk the bag, except for the opening, under the water to squeeze the air out).
Put the bags in the back of the refrigerator (the back of the refrigerator is the coldest part). Leave them in there for seven days, flipping the bags over once a day until its ready.
After seven days, the Tasso ham will be cured and ready to smoke.
Special Equipment Needed for Smoking
This recipe requires that you have some special equipment at home.
First, you need an outdoor grill of some sort. Most any will do.
You’ll need to know how to set your grill up for two-zone cooking. You can learn how to do that here.
You’ll also need a special wireless thermometer for monitoring the internal temperature of the pork shoulder pieces as well as the temperature of the grill itself.
The thermometer has two temperature probes. You want to insert one into the center of the thickest part of the meat. The second probe should be attached with its provided clip on the coolest side of the grill.
Your goal will be to maintain a temperature of 225 degrees in your grill the entire time you cook. This keeps the outside of the Tasso chunks from overcooking before the inside reaches the proper temperature.
To get that awesome smoky flavor, you are also going to want to make a wood-chip foil pack. Just take about half a fist-full of wood chips (you can get wood chips at most grocery stores in the charcoal section) and place them on a large rectangle of heavy-duty tin foil. Fold it up loosely and seal around the edges. Stab a bunch of holes in each side with a fork, and you’re ready to go.
Now that your grill is set up for two-zone cooking, throw your wood-chip pack over the hottest part and let it sit until smoke starts coming out.
Finally, close the lid and let your grill come up to 225 degrees and you’re ready to go. When it comes to temperature, your Tasso chunks will go on the coolest part of the grill, next to but not touching the probe that’s attached to the grill. The other temperature probe will be inserted into the center of the thickest piece of pork on the grill.
Cook until the internal temperature hits 150 degrees.
Pull your smoked Tasso ham off your grill and let cool.
Finally, having a vacuum sealer is nice. We package about four pieces per bag and freeze it for use whenever we need it.
It should hold up for about four months in the freezer.
Homemade Tasso Ham Recipe
- 5-6 lb. pork shoulder-blade roast - whole, bone-in
- 4 tbsp. paprika
- 4 tbsp, Kosher salt
- 2 tbsp. cayenne pepper
- 2 tbsp. onion powder
- 2 tbsp. granulated garlic
- 1 tbsp. dark brown sugar
- 1 tbsp. granulated white sugar
- 1 tbsp. chipotle powder
- 1 tbsp. black pepper
- 1 tbsp. dried sage
- 1 tsp. ground cloves
- 1 tsp. pink curing salt
Curing Your Tasso
- Trim excess fat off the outside of the pork shoulder.
- Cut the pork shoulder into approximately 3 inch by 3 inch pieces, removing the shoulder-blade bone in the process.
- Mix all seasonings with a wire whisk.
- Roll each piece of pork shoulder-blade in the seasoning until fully covered. Place in a bowl and pour the remaining seasoning over the top. Toss to ensure that all seasoning is utilized.
- Separate into three separate gallon-size zip-top bags. Remove as much air as possible using the water displacement method in your sink.
- Place bags in your refrigerator near the back.
- Cure for seven days, turning bags over once per day to keep liquid from settling in one spot.
Smoking Your Tasso
- Set your grill up for two zone cooking and bring the temperature to 225 degrees.
- Place wood chip pack on the hottest part of the grill and wait till it starts smoking.
- Place all Tasso on the grill and insert your meat thermometer into the center of the thickest piece.
- Smoke until the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees.
- Vacuum seal and freeze for up to four months.