The holiday season is over, and you have no idea what to do with the leftover cooked ham. At this point, it is natural to look for alternative ways to prolong its shelf life.
Perhaps, you bought extra packs of ham because they were in a big sale. Either way, you are exploring the possibility of freezing ham.
No problem, we got you covered. This article shares the essential details of freezing ham, how to thaw frozen ham, and other related questions. Sounds interesting? Keep reading!
Can Ham Be Frozen?
Ham is a type of cured pork, particularly from leg cuts. Ham can be prepared with or without smoking.
Various types of ham freeze well. Whether cooked or uncooked, whole or sliced, ham on the bone, or smoked ham, you can safely freeze them for later use.
How to Freeze Whole Ham
There is a time when we overestimate the amount of food we need for an occasion. We’ve all been there.
If that’s the reason why you have an extra pack of whole ham, you can always freeze it for later use.
Here are the steps to freeze a whole ham properly:
- 1. If you have an unopened pack of ham, you can leave it in its original packaging. For extra protection, place it in a freezer bag or wrap it with an aluminum foil.
- 2. If the freezer doesn’t have enough space for a whole ham, consider cutting it into several pieces to fit your freezer. Place the pieces in a freezer bag.
- 3. Squeeze as much air as possible from the bag.
- 4. Label each bag with a name and date of freezing.
- 5. Place the bags in the freezer.
How to Freeze Sliced Ham
If you have leftover sliced ham, freezing is a great way to prolong its shelf life.
If you want to serve it right away after thawing, you can cook it prior to freezing. This way, you can always have cooked sliced ham ready for your sandwiches.
- 1. Let the ham cool down after cooking.
- 2. Slice the ham with a sharp knife. It is up to you to decide the thickness of the slices. Remove any excess moisture.
- 3. Divide the slices into portion size. If you know how many cuts you need per serving or for a couple of days, it is useful when it comes to thawing.
- 4. Pack each portion into a freezer bag. Squeeze as much air as possible.
- 5. Label the bags with a little note of what’s inside, date of freezing, or use-by date.
- 6. Place them in the freezer.
How To Defrost Frozen Ham
You can safely defrost frozen ham in several different ways, depending on how you want to use it and your time.
1. Overnight in the refrigerator
This method is the safest among others, but it can be a lengthy process. Depending on the size, thawing ham in the fridge may take a day or two. Whole ham can take up to three days. So, make sure to plan it in advance to prevent you from having a late dinner.
2. In cold water
For a speedy process, you can also defrost frozen ham in a cold water bath.
Place the item in a sealed plastic bag. Make sure it doesn’t leak. Immerse the bag in a bowl of cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes until the meat has completely thawed. Cook the ham immediately after thawing.
3. In the microwave
Thawing frozen foods in the microwave is obviously a popular method. That’s why most microwaves have a defrost mode.
Microwave thawing is suitable if you are tight in time and need to cook the ham immediately since the meat can be partly warmed during defrosting.
Use the lowest setting if your microwave doesn’t have a defrost mode. Use short increments every 15 to 30 seconds—depending on the size. Make sure to keep your eyes on the microwave to prevent the meat from being cooked.
4. Cook it while frozen
If you want to use ham for a cooked dish, you can also throw it into the pan while still frozen. You can save time for thawing. Calculate extra time to cook it in a frozen state.
Make sure that the inside is thoroughly cooked. Use a thermometer to check the temperature, if necessary. The internal part should reach 165 °F. (*)
Never thaw frozen ham at room temperature, such as in the basement, garage, countertop, etc. Thawing in this condition may give a chance for microbial growth and render the ham unsafe to use.
Can You Refreeze Ham Safely?
If frozen ham is defrosted in the refrigerator, it is safe to put it back into the freezer without cooking it before refreezing.
For frozen cooked ham thawed in the refrigerator, it is also safe to refreeze unused portions.
Refreezing should take place within 3 to 4 days after thawing.
Don’t refreeze ham if it’s left outside the refrigerator for longer than 2 hours. (*)
How Long Can You Freeze a Ham?
Frozen ham is safe to use indefinitely. However, prolonged freezing causes a decrease in quality. So, how long can you keep a frozen ham?
Fresh (uncured), uncooked ham retains its quality up to 6 months in the freezer. Meanwhile, for other types of frozen ham, it’s recommended to use within 1 to 2 months.
Beyond these time frames, the meat is likely safe to use, but it may not taste as delicious as you would have expected.
It depends. Ham and bread freeze well. But, if fresh ingredients such as lettuce, tomato, or cucumber are incorporated, this type of fillings do not freeze well.
Definitely yes. Basically, any type of ham freezes pretty well, including smoked ham. You can freeze smoked ham in slices or as a whole.
Yes, you can freeze spiral-cut ham for up to 1 to 2 months.
Yes, as long as it is defrosted in the refrigerator and it is not left outside longer than 2 hours.
Any type of ham can be frozen safely for indefinitely. However, for quality purposes, frozen ham is generally best to use within 1 to 2 months. There are some great side dishes for ham you can try when making ham dinner.
You can safely thaw frozen ham in the refrigerator, in cold water, or the microwave. However, never defrost frozen meat outside, in the garage or basement. If you want to use frozen ham for a cooked dish, it is possible to throw it into the pan while still frozen.
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