So, you bought a whole ham for thanksgiving or Christmas and aren’t sure what to do with your leftovers. Or maybe, you just aren’t sure how to safely store it before it’s time to eat. That is what this article will help you learn.
Ham can last outside for up to two hours at room temperature. Any higher than 90 degrees F and it should not be left out for longer than an hour. Cooked ham will last in the fridge for three to four days. Frozen ham can last indefinitely in the freezer.
Does Ham Go Bad? How Long Does Ham Last?
Let’s take a look at the shelf life of ham if kept outside, stored in the fridge, or in the freezer.
How Long Does Ham Last Outside?
You got stuck with serving ham sandwiches to the kids at the soccer game or maybe you chose to put out sandwich ingredients for guests and aren’t sure how long you can allow them to remain outside.
If it’s above 90 degrees F, ham should not be left out any longer than an hour. Typically, the higher the temperature, the shorter the clock can run. If it’s lower than 90 degrees F, ham can be left out for up to two hours.
Ham should not be thawed or left at room temperature for lengthy periods of time due to bacteria growth. As soon as you come home from the store, ham should be put in the fridge right away (depending on when you got it from the store and how long you took – that clock is running as soon as it’s out of the fridge.)
Ham should not be stored outside unless it is temperature safe. You may be tempted to leave your cold goods outside in the winter when it drops below 40 degrees F, but the temperature can fluctuate so much it is not the best idea to do it.
How Long Does Ham Last in the Fridge?
So, the holidays came up fast and you aren’t sure how long you can leave your ham in the fridge. Maybe you want to use it for sandwiches a few days after the holidays.
First, uncooked hams are okay in the fridge for 5-7 days after purchase. If you bought it vacuum-sealed, only keep it till three days past the use-by date (if unopened). A cooked ham will last only three to four days in the fridge after cooking.
Ham should be tightly wrapped in plastic or aluminum foil (even after cooking). You should also store your ham in the farthest corner in the fridge where it can stay the coldest. The closer to the door, the warmer it is in your fridge and the faster it will spoil.
How Long Does Ham Last in the Freezer?
You have lots of ham left-over from the holidays and want to know if you can freeze it to make it last longer or maybe you’re on a budget and bought ham on sale and want to make it last as long as possible.
Ham will last indefinitely in the freezer. However, it will lose taste and quality the longer you let it sit in the freezer. Don’t freeze and thaw the same ham sporadically. Once it thaws, eat it or toss it. Don’t refreeze.
Since ham is a meat, it can lose flavor and texture the longer it’s frozen for. So, ham should be cooked and any excess water removed as much as possible to help the ham keep its quality for as long as possible.
Ham should be stored in small portions, and in freezer safe bags. Wrap it as tightly as you can while also storing it in a Ziploc at the same time. Keeping it in smaller portions is helpful for grabbing it and refrigerating any leftovers.
In conclusion, ham should be refrigerated or frozen to keep it safe to eat, and not stored outside for longer than a few hours or else it will start to grow harmful bacteria.
How To Store Ham?
If you cooked your ham and then portioned it out, the remaining ham should be stored properly.
How to store cooked: It should be wrapped tightly in aluminum foil or plastic wrap and then stored in an air-tight container like a glass bowl with a lid or a plastic Ziploc bag – the freezer safe bags work best.
Where to store: If storing in the fridge, store it as far back as possible. The farther back in the fridge, the colder the ham will stay. The closer to the door, the warmer the fridge is. If you decide to store your ham in the freezer, again, keep it as far back from the door as possible. The deeper the ham is in the freezer, the colder and safer it will stay.
When Serving Ham: If you have ham just sitting out in the room, make sure the dish it’s being served in is covered in plastic wrap or foil to prevent it from any dirt or dust in the air to help prevent contamination. Don’t leave it out for longer than two hours if above 40 degrees F, and less than an hour if its over 90 degrees F.
Can You Freeze Ham? How?
Yes, you can freeze ham. There are a few steps to freezing ham.
Cook Ham: Cook the ham before storing. Ensure it is fully cooked. This will kill any lingering bacteria from the store or from the butchering process, and freezing will ensure none can grow.
Chop Ham: Cut up the ham after cooking (or before) into as many portions as you want. It is recommended to store it in smaller portions to not have to defrost all the ham at once. You should only reheat and refreeze ham no more than twice as more than that can allow for too much bacteria to be able to grow and spread food borne illness.
Store Ham: Store ham in a freezer safe bag, or container. Ensure there is as little moisture as possible. Store it in smaller portions for easier handling and defrosting.
Thaw Ham: Ham can be thawed in the fridge overnight or over the day. It should not be thawed on the counter, as it is exposed to light and air and that can encourage bacteria to grow on it and in it, causing food-borne illness.
Frequently Asked Questions About Ham’s Shelf Life
How can you tell if ham is spoiled?
Ham should not be slimy. If it starts to have any slime or gray coloring, do not eat it and toss it. If it smells bad can also be an indicator. Taste should not be used to determine whether or not something is spoiled, however, if it looked and smelled fine but when you take a bite, it doesn’t taste normal, toss it and do not finish it.
Can you eat ham that has been frozen for over a year?
Ham in the freezer will last indefinitely as long as it is stored properly. Storing properly means protection from frost and air in the freezer (it should not be left open.) The quality of meat can decline the longer it stays in the freezer, but the safety of the meat should remain intact as long as proper storing techniques were adhered.
So, now you know how to keep your ham stored properly. Remember no longer than two hours at room temperature. It is safe to have ham from the fridge for three to four days after cooking. Frozen ham will last indefinitely as long as it was cooked before freezing.