Ham is a delicious and versatile meat that can be enjoyed in many ways. It’s often purchased around the holidays, but it may be difficult to eat it all before it goes bad.
Freezing ham allows you to store it for longer, so none goes to waste. But can you actually freeze ham successfully?
How to Freeze a Fresh Ham
Freezing an uncooked, fresh ham is simple. Here are the steps:
Choose an Airtight package.
It’s important to seal the ham in an airtight bag or container with as little air as possible. This prevents freezer burn, which can dry out the meat. Good options include:
- Vacuum-seal bags
- Heavy-duty plastic freezer bags, squeezing out excess air.
- Plastic wrap pressed tightly around the ham.
- Foil or freezer paper wrapped tightly around the ham
Portion the Ham
A whole ham can be tricky to thaw. It’s easier to defrost just what you need if you cut the ham into smaller portions before freezing. Slice into manageable sizes, like:
- Steak slices
- Cubes for soups or stews
Label the packages.
Be sure to label each package with the cut of ham and the date it was frozen. This lets you easily identify and use the oldest ham first.
Freeze the ham as soon as possible after purchasing it for the best quality. If freezing takes longer than two months, consider double-wrapping the packages.
Freeze at 0°F or below.
Set your freezer to 0°F or below. The colder the temperature, the better the ham will retain its texture and moisture during freezing.
Can You Freeze cooked ham?
Freezing fully cooked ham is also an option. Here’s how:
Let the Ham cool.
If cooking a fresh ham, let it cool completely before freezing. Hot ham placed directly in the freezer can lead to condensation and freezer burn.
Slice the ham.
Cut cooked ham into thin slices or chunks. This allows you to thaw only what you need.
Portion Into Servings
Wrap single serving sizes into small packets. This could be enough for sandwiches, omelets, or pasta dishes.
Use Freezer Bags or containers.
Packaging cooked ham similarly to fresh by removing air, using freezer bags, and wrapping in plastic or foil all help prevent freezer burn.
Limit Storage Time
Cooked ham tends to lose moisture during freezing. For best quality, use cooked frozen ham within 1–2 months.
Reheat Fully When thawing.
Always reheat cooked ham thoroughly to 165°F when thawed to reduce the risk of bacteria.
Thawing Your Frozen Ham Safely
No matter what state you froze it in, thaw it properly to avoid foodborne illness.
Thaw in the refrigerator.
The safest way to thaw ham is by moving it from the freezer to the refrigerator. This gradual thawing helps retain moisture and texture. Allow 24 hours of thawing time per 5 pounds of ham.
Submerge in Cold water.
For faster thawing, you can fully submerge the frozen ham in its packaging in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. Cook the ham within 2 hours of fully thawing.
Use the microwave.
Microwave thawing is quick but can lead to uneven cooking. Be sure to cook the ham immediately after microwaving to 165°F, checking for cold spots.
Never Thaw at Room temperature.
It is unsafe to thaw ham at room temperature, as the outside can enter the danger zone before the inside thaws. This risks bacterial growth.
How Long Does Ham Last in the Freezer?
Properly frozen and stored, ham can last:
- Fresh raw ham: 4–12 months
- Cooked ham: 1-2 months
- Canned ham: 2–5 years unopened
For best quality, use frozen fresh ham within 4 months and cooked ham within 1 month. Always rely on sight and smell rather than the date on the package. Discard ham with an off-odor or slimy texture.
Can You Refreeze Ham After Thawing?
It is not recommended to refreeze raw ham after it has completely thawed. However, cooked ham can be safely refrozen if:
- It was thawed in the refrigerator, not at room temperature.
- It was thawed less than a week before refreezing.
- It has not come into contact with other foods.
The quality will decline with each refreeze. For food safety, it’s best to use ham within 3–4 months if refreezing cooked ham.
Frequently Asked Questions About Freezing Ham
How can you tell if frozen ham has gone bad?
Signs of spoiled frozen ham include an off smell, slimy texture, dried-out appearance, any mold, and a drastically different color from when frozen. When in doubt, throw it out.
Can you freeze sliced deli ham?
Pre-packaged sliced deli ham has often already been frozen and should not be frozen again at home. The quality declines significantly. It’s best to use deli ham within 3-5 days of opening the original package.
Is it safe to freeze ham after the expiration date?
It’s best to freeze ham 1-2 days before or on the sell-by date for optimal freshness. Freezing very soon after the date expires is likely safe if it looks and smells normal. But quality diminishes the longer past its date ham is frozen.
Can you freeze a spiral-sliced ham?
A spiral-sliced ham can be safely frozen, but the slices may stick together a bit while frozen. Gently separate the slices after thawing. Vacuum sealing gives the best results for frozen spiral hams.
What is the white stuff on frozen ham?
A white residue on frozen ham is usually freezer burn. It occurs when air reaches the meat, drying it out. Trim off mild freezer burn before cooking. Severely burned areas should be discarded. Prevent it by properly sealing ham for the freezer.
Can you freeze canned ham?
Unopened canned ham can be frozen safely, almost indefinitely. But freezing can impact the can’s integrity over time. It’s best to use canned hams frozen for over a year as soon as possible after thawing.
Freezing ham can extend its shelf life for months while preserving its delicious flavor. Follow proper methods for freezing both fresh and cooked ham. Always thaw in the refrigerator and handle thawed ham properly.
With the right techniques, you can enjoy your holiday ham even months after purchasing it.
Hi, I’m Julie, the passionate foodie and founder of Juliesfamilykitchen.com. I created this blog out of a drive to prove someone wrong, and then I realized how much I truly enjoy cooking and trying new recipes. In my free time, when I’m not running around after my kids or spending quality time with my partner, you can usually find me in the kitchen experimenting with new dishes.