Whether you are purchasing large cuts of meat or have leftovers, it is important to know how to freeze ham properly for optimal results.
Do you have a leftover ham but don’t know what to do with it? While you can refrigerate your ham (fresh, cooked, sliced or whole) in the fridge, it will last longer freezing ham. If you plan on using up your ham within 5 days, that is a perfect way to store, but any longer, it is best to freeze.
During the Holiday season, ham is plentiful at our house. Since there is only so much we can eat, we turn to the freezer. Freezing your ham can be an excellent way of preserving and keeping the flavor.
With some careful prep and storage techniques, freezing your ham can ensure that it stays fresh. Read on for some tips on how to freeze cooked hams correctly so you can enjoy them for months down the road.
Can You Freeze Ham?
Yes, you can. When it comes to buying and storing large cuts of meat, like ham, finding ways to preserve them for long term use is essential. Freezing uncooked and cooked ham is an excellent way to make them last longer without compromising their flavor or texture.
You can freeze diced ham, spiral ham, honey ham, deli ham, leftover ham, and more types of ham. It can last up to a year.
How to Freeze Ham
Freezing is a great way to keep meat fresh for months while maintaining flavor and texture. If you find meat on sale, go ahead, and get it as long as you have room in your freezer.
No matter what type of freezing method you choose, make sure to label the container with the contents and date. I often use a piece of masking tape and permanent marker.
Freezing Whole Ham
Storing uncooked ham. If the meat is in the original vacuum packed packaging, you can freeze it right away when you get home from the grocery store.
Storing cooked ham. Once out of the package or cooked, you can use a vacuum sealer at home and freeze. Otherwise, for best results, have a few layers of protection for the meat. Wrap in aluminum foil, freezer paper, or plastic wrap and place in a large freezer safe plastic bag or a large airtight container.
Freezing Ham slices
This is probably the safest way to store leftover Holiday ham or that Sunday dinner leftover meat. Especially if you do not plan on using it right away. While you can place all the slices in one container, I often divide the ham slices or diced ham up into small portions. Here are my tips.
Add the ham pieces to a storage container. You can use a plastic freezer bags making sure to get as much air out as possible as this will keep the ice crystals from forming. A vacuum-sealed bag is preferable. A plastic airtight container works well.
How Long Can You Freeze a Ham
Ham that is properly stored can last up to a year; however, the optimal time is 3-6 months. To help make sure that your ham stays fresh over time, here are some key steps on how to freeze and properly store this prized cut of meat. Ham that is unopened can be frozen in its original store packaging if there are no holes or tears in the airtight packaging.
Cooked ham can be frozen in airtight containers or freezer bags to protect it from freezer burn.
How to Tell is Ham is Bad
The first thing to check if the ham is in original packaging is the expiration date. If the ham is past that date, it is a good bet that it is spoiled and should be discarded.
However, there are other sure signs to look for if you are unsure of the expiration date.
First look for any mold, slimy or sticky texture on the outside. Next look at the color of the meat. If it looks grey or has off colors even in a few places, it is spoiled and should be discarded.
Lastly, smell the ham. If it smells sour or rotten, do not eat. The ham is bad and should not be consumed.
How Long is Deli Ham Good For?
You can store packaged lunch meats such as deli ham in the refrigerator for two weeks before opening. However, once the package is opened, it should be discarded after 5 days in the refrigerator.
According to the USDA, there are three safe ways to thaw ham, refrigerator, cold water, and microwave. Notice that none of them involve leaving ham out at room temperature.
The refrigerator. The refrigerator is the best way of thawing any kind of meat because it is the safest method in terms of food safety. Plan on 4 to 6 hours per pound. Therefore, if you have a 5 pound ham, plan on it taking a full day to thaw in the refrigerator.
Cold water. This method is faster than the refrigerator thawing method. Make sure that the ham it is an airtight leak-proof package and soak it in cold water. Change out the water every 30 minutes. Using this method cuts the thaw time down to approximately 30 minutes per pound, so now that 5 pound ham can be thawed in about 3 to 4 hours. You can use a bowl of cold water to thaw smaller amounts or a large container of cold water for whole hams.
Microwave method. Lastly, you can use the microwave to thaw the frozen ham. Often, microwaves have an automatic setting for thawing meat. Set your microwave on defrosting mode and let it take the guesswork out of microwave thawing. If your microwave does not do this, run on 50 percent pour and 10 minute increments checking to see if the meat is thawed.
For food safety, once the ham is thawed using cold water or microwave it should be cooked right away.
What to Do with Leftover Ham?
Recently, we attended a family Holiday gathering. We were blessed that the food was plentiful. All the leftovers get divided up among the families at all the Holiday meals. No one ever wants the leftover cooked ham or the ham juice. I do!
If you are looking for a delicious ham recipe you should really give this slow cooker ham a try. It is full of flavor, tender, and juicy. Just get in your slow cooker, slice, and serve. One of my favorite ways. And if I can get spiral cut hams, even better. Half the work is done for me for serving the ham and all the brown sugar and pineapple can get between the slices. But this recipe will work for a boneless ham or a bone-in ham just as well.
Slow Cooker Brown Sugar Pineapple Ham
I freeze the slices of ham in freezer-friendly containers about one pound of ham in each container. Then I take the ham juice and freeze that in two cup plastic containers. Even the ham bone I take home.
Of course, if I am hosing the holiday and no one wants these delicacies, I keep them. This is really a versatile meat that can be used in so many things.
The ham bone goes into the refrigerator and within a few days, I use it to make pea soup, potato soup, or vegetable soup. It takes the flavors over the top and we pick everything off the bone and use it all up.
Next, I will use the leftover ham slices and chunks in casseroles, sandwiches, a cold ham salad, heat it up and serve it along side eggs for breakfast, or make eggs benedict.
Here are a few recipes to get you started.
How to Thaw Ham
- Whole Ham
- Ham Slices
- Ham Steak
- The refrigerator is the best way of thawing any kind of meat because it is the safest method in terms of food safety. Plan on 4 to 6 hours per pound. Therefore, if you have a 5 pound ham, plan on it taking a full day to thaw in the refrigerator.
- This method is faster than the refrigerator thawing method. Make sure that the ham it is an airtight leak-proof package and soak it in cold water. Change out the water every 30 minutes. Using this method cuts the thaw time down to approximately 30 minutes per pound, so now that 5 pound ham can be thawed in about 3 to 4 hours. You can use a bowl of cold water to thaw smaller amounts or a large container of cold water for whole hams.
- Lastly, you can use the microwave to thaw the frozen ham. Often, microwaves have an automatic setting for thawing meat. Set your microwave on defrosting mode and let it take the guesswork out of microwave thawing. If your microwave does not do this, run on 50 percent pour and 10 minute increments checking to see if the meat is thawed.
Savory Slow-cooker Split Pea Soup
Baked Loaded Velveeta Mac and Cheese Recipe