Ham makes a gorgeous centerpiece for holidays and special occasions. But, no matter how hungry your family or friends are, there’s just no way you can all finish that whole hunk of meat in one sitting! So what do you do with all those leftovers?
Storing ham in the fridge will only get it to last for 5 days. Does that mean you should force the family to eat ham sandwiches for the rest of the week? Or is there a way to preserve it?
Well, fortunately, there is! Since ham is a cured meat, it keeps well in the freezer. As long as you store it the right way, you can enjoy that sweet and savory meat for up to a year.
And don’t worry, freezing won’t affect the taste or texture of ham at all. It will still taste exactly the same as when you first sliced it. So the next time ham goes on sale, stock up!
How to Freeze Ham Properly
Here’s the most important thing you need to remember: whether it’s whole or sliced ham, be sure to cool it in the fridge before freezing.
- Wrap the ham in aluminum foil or freezer paper.
- Place the ham in an air-tight container or a freezer-safe bag, and cover or seal tightly.
- Label and date the container so you can easily track the age of the ham.
- Store in the freezer for up to 12 months. It’s best to enjoy it within 6 months, though.
Freezing individual ham slices makes it easier to take out smaller portions. Perfect for when you want to make a quick ham sandwich.
- Slice or dice the ham according to your preferred size and thickness. Think about how you plan on using the ham to guide you.
- Separate the ham into your preferred serving sizes.
- Place each portion in a freezer-safe or vacuum-sealed bag. Squeeze out as much air as you can and seal.
- Label the bag accordingly.
Yup, you can freeze the ham bone, too! It makes a wonderful ingredient for soups and broths. If you haven’t tried ham broth yet, you are missing out!
How to Thaw Ham
To defrost ham, just place it in the fridge for 24 to 48 hours. The time it takes to defrost depends on the size of the ham – which is another reason I prefer freezing it in smaller portions.
Now, the biggest challenge to defrosting ham is losing moisture. But, fortunately, there is a simple solution. Just wrap the ham in aluminum foil to keep its moisture.
You can eat ham straight out of the fridge, or you may heat it as well. If you plan on baking a whole ham, consider slathering the exterior with butter to keep it from drying out.
Forgot to take the ham out of the freezer? No problem! There are some ways to defrost ham much faster.
Soak in Cold Water
This thawing technique is best for smaller portions of ham. Just take the slices out of the bag and transfer them into a new Ziploc bag.
Again, remove as much air as you can before sealing, because air will make the bag float in water. Then submerge it in a bowl of cold water.
It will take 30 minutes to defrost a pound of ham. To speed things up, you can break apart the pieces once they get softer.
Pop the ham in the microwave for an even faster thawing. If your microwave has a setting where it can automatically compute how much time is needed based on the size of your meat, great!
If it doesn’t, that’s okay too. Just set it to the lowest power and check your meat from time to time.
If you plan on baking the ham, you can do so in its frozen state. Just keep in mind that you will need to cook it 50% longer. Considering that it normally takes 24-48 hours to defrost ham, that’s not so bad!
Whatever method you choose, here’s the one thing you must keep in mind: never thaw ham at room temperature.
Placing it in the sink or at the counter will invite harmful bacteria to enter the meat, making it unsafe to eat. This is true for any type of meat.
Can you Refreeze Thawed Ham?
Say you made the mistake of defrosting too much ham. Is it still safe to pop it back in the freezer? Fortunately, refreezing is not a problem for ham.
Sure, the quality will not be the same anymore, since it will have lost some of its moisture when you first thawed it. But, as long as you follow these guidelines, your ham should still be okay.
1. You should have used the fridge to thaw it. If you used a different thawing method – soaking it in water and microwaving – do not bother refreezing.
2. Freeze it within three days post-thawing.
3. Do not refreeze if the ham has been sitting outside the fridge for over two hours.
4. Pack the ham properly to avoid freezer burn.
Uses for Cooked Ham
Ham is a versatile meat, so it’s actually a good thing to have leftovers! Aside from eating ham as is, there’s a bunch of other ways to use it.
In fact, you will never run out of creative options. Here are some of my favorites:
- Ham is great with any breakfast dish! Whether it’s a simple sandwich, omelet, breakfast hash, or a fancy quiche, you can never go wrong with adding some ham to it.
- For a more flavorful soup or chowder, you can add both chunks of ham and ham bone to the broth! Yum.
- Craving pasta? Slice up your ham and add it to your carbonara. Feel like making home-made pizza? Top it generously with ham!
- Chicken, cheese, and ham always go great together, so why not make some chicken cordon bleu for dinner? It’s creamy, savory, and oh so yummy.