Yes, you can freeze ham! How long you can freeze it and what you can use it for will differ.
Did you know that if you freeze ham properly, it will last forever? It will not hold its quality necessarily, but it will always be safe to eat.
We will go into detail about frozen ham below and suggest some recipe ideas that call for leftover ham.
How to Freeze Ham
You can freeze store-bought ham in its packaging if you have not opened it yet.
Can you freeze cooked ham? Yes! If you want to freeze leftover cooked ham, make sure the ham is cool and dry first. Put the ham in a plastic bag, wrap it in aluminium foil, then put all that into another plastic bag. These steps prevent ice crystals and freezer burn.
Freezer bags are even better than standard zip-locks because you can let out excess air from the bag before you freeze your ham. Any extra air will make your ham’s freezer life shorter.
Please note that when we refer to the freezer life of your ham, we are specifically referring to quality and taste, not safety. Again, your ham will be safe to eat for years after freezing.
Make sure you check the label on your ham. Ham with added water will be more difficult to freeze and less tasty when you thaw it because the water turns into ice crystals. These ice crystals deteriorate the flavor of your frozen ham.
How Long Does Ham Last in the Fridge/Freezer?
You can freeze ham forever if you want to, but it will taste worse the longer it stays in the freezer. You can freeze cooked ham for a maximum of 1-2 months. Raw ham that is uncured will be fresh for up to 6 months in the freezer. There are slight differences that depend on the type of ham you freeze and how you prepare it before freezing, which we discuss below.
Foodsafety.gov states that food can be frozen indefinitely as far as safety goes. Their helpful chart shows the maximum time food should be frozen to still taste great.
Fresh, uncooked, uncured ham lasts five days in the fridge and six months in the freezer. Cooked, uncured ham lasts four days in the fridge and four months in the freezer.
Cured, uncooked ham lasts seven days in the fridge unless the “Use By” date states differently. This type of ham lasts up to four months in the freezer.
Curing meat is the process of salting, drying, or smoking it to preserve and liven up its flavors. This process does make meat last longer, but the flavors will not last as long. This explains why the suggested freezer time is shorter than for uncured ham. It is still safe to eat past the 4-month mark, but it will not be as flavorful.
Fully cooked, vacuum-sealed ham that was cooked before you bought it lasts up to two weeks in the refrigerator – unless its “Use By” date is sooner – and about two months in the freezer.
Fully cooked ham that was wrapped in paper at the grocery store lasts for one week in the refrigerator and about two months in the freezer. If the ham is cut in slices or half, it will last around five days in the refrigerator and two months in the freezer.
A country ham, which is heavily salted and dried over a long period, lasts for about one week in the refrigerator and up to one month in the freezer for best tasting results.
An unopened can of “Keep Refrigerated” ham will last for nine months in the refrigerator and you should not freeze it. The pressure of freezing liquids in an air-tight container can cause them to explode.
Shelf-stable canned ham, or ham that does not require refrigeration, will last up to two years in your pantry if left unopened. The same can of ham opened will last four days in the refrigerator and two months in the freezer.
Prosciutto, Serano, or Parma cuts of ham will last for about three months in the refrigerator and one month in the freezer. Make sure these are authentic Italian or Spanish cuts because that is why they last so long in the refrigerator.
How to Tell if Frozen Ham is Bad
Frozen ham is generally safe forever, but there are a few caveats.
Freezer burn, which looks like grey or brown dry spots on meat, means your ham will not be as flavorful upon cooking. Contrary to popular belief, while the quality of your ham has decreased, it will not make you sick.
If the texture of your ham has changed, however, throw it away. Vegetables with changes in texture are safe to eat, but meats are not.
If your ham smells funny or different, it is probably best not to cook it. The smell came from other foods in your freezer, and it is still safe to eat, but it will not taste good.
If your frozen ham is not completely frozen, throw it out. You will see a puddle of unfrozen liquid if this is the case. The ham could have partially thawed and is therefore unsafe.
If you cannot remember when you froze the ham or the package is ripped, throw it away to avoid bland-tasting meat.
Frozen Ham Recipe Ideas
You can make a baked egg casserole with leftover ham and veggies. This is a great option for large families or big get-togethers over the holidays.
Try tossing leftover cold ham into a salad. This works best with chef salads.
Replace your boring avocado toast with sauteed ham, onions, and broccoli. You can bake everything together on a pan and use thick slices of bread for a decadent snack.
Throw your leftover ham into your favorite pasta dish for a delicious comfort meal. Ham goes with most pasta dishes, so try experimenting with different sauces and vegetables.
You can also use your leftover ham in soups and stews, put it on sandwiches, and add it to your one-pot dinners for some extra flavor.
Use this chart to keep you and your family safe when cooking thawed leftover ham.
Frequently Asked Questions
To safely thaw ham, put it in your refrigerator for a few days. Do not thaw ham on your kitchen counter.
You can thaw ham in the microwave but only do this if you plan to cook the meat immediately. If you thaw meat using heat, it can start to grow bacteria if not cooked right away. This can also happen if you leave the ham on your kitchen counter for too long, which is why it is not a recommended method for thawing.
You can also reheat frozen ham in a pan in the oven. Make sure you cover it with some chicken broth or another liquid to help insulate the reheating process. The safe internal temperature of ham is 160˚ F. Use a food thermometer to determine this. Similar to the microwave method, make sure you cook the ham straight away when using this method.
Yes! As long as you follow the above instructions and keep it as air-tight as possible, you can freeze store-bought ham.
No. Some people believe that ham will still taste great up to a year after freezing. We recommend sticking to six months for maximum freshness, but your ham will stay safe to eat for longer than that.
Freezing ham does not change the taste or texture, especially if you eat it within six months of freezing.
Safety-wise, you can eat ham that you put into the freezer two years ago. Taste-wise, however, you might want to think twice.
You can freeze sliced ham for up to two months. The taste quality of sliced ham decreases faster because it has more surface area available to the air.
To keep whole, cooked ham fresh in your refrigerator, use a ham bag or clean tea towel soaked in a water and vinegar solution. Make sure you wring out any excess water before doing this. The bag can be re-soaked and re-applied a couple of times. Always keep in mind our recommended refrigerator times when doing this.
It takes about 4 to 6 hours per pound to thaw ham in the refrigerator.
Because a freezer is a very cold environment, it is also dry. This dryness decreases moisture and increases the taste of salt.
Whether you are a seasoned chef or new to cooking, we hope you found this information helpful! Be sure to check out the Food Safety website for more information and clear time charts.