What You Need To Know About Freezing Ham
Ham for the holidays and everyday.
Yes, but let’s start with why you think you need to. Ham has been cured, and possibly smoked, to make it keep far longer than fresh pork. Some types of ham keep for weeks or months, although we should always heed the information on the package on how to safely store a ham and for how long, especially if the ham is uncooked. FoodSafety.gov tells us that packaged ham will bear a statement on the label indicating whether the product needs to be cooked before it’s eaten.
The USDA provides this Ham Storage Chart that covers a lot of different types and cuts of ham. They also note that freezer storage guidelines are for quality only. Frozen hams remain safe indefinitely. For more information on how to safely store and cook ham, or other types of meat, go to usda.gov.
When freezing an uncooked ham, the original wrapper might not provide sufficient insulation against freezer burn. You might need to protect it by vacuum-sealing, enclosing it in a freezer bag, or wrapping it securely in several thicknesses of plastic wrap, freezer paper, or foil. Be sure to label and date the package.
When freezing cooked ham, perhaps after a special holiday meal, consider how you plan to use the leftovers and portion the ham accordingly. It’s likely that dividing the ham into amounts (such as cups or ounces) and shapes (cubes, chopped, or sliced) that line up with your favorite recipes is more useful than freezing the entire leftover hunk, so that you can pull out and thaw only as much as need. It’s also much easier to slice or chop ham before it’s frozen solid. Always wrap those portions well and label them.
It’s equally important to thaw ham safely. Foodsafety.gov advises that the safest way is to let it thaw in the refrigerator. If you turn instead of the microwave, be sure to cook it immediately after thawing since that method will begin heating the ham as it thaws. It’s never safe to thaw ham (or any meat) at room temperature.
Freezing Fresh (uncured) Ham
Uncooked: 6 months
Cooked: 3 to 4 months
Freezing Cured Ham
Cook-before-eating; Uncooked: 3 to 4 months
Cook-before-eating; After consumer cooks it: 1 to 2
Freezing Cooked Ham
Vacuum sealed at plant; undated; unopened: 1 to 2 months
Vacuum sealed at plant; dated; unopened: 1 to 2 months
Vacuum sealed at plant; undated or dated; opened: 1 to 2 months
Whole; Stored wrapped: 1 to 2 months
Half; Store wrapped: 1 to 2 months
Slices; Store wrapped: 1 to 2 months
Freezing Spiral-cut Ham and Leftovers
Consumer-cooked hams: 1 to 2 months
Freezing Canned Ham
"Keep Refrigerated" label; Unopened: Don't Freeze
"Keep Refrigerated" label; Opened: 1 to 2 months
Shelf stable; Opened: 1 to 2 months
Shelf stable, unopened canned ham can be stored at room temperature for 2 years.
Whole, uncut country ham can be stored at room temperature for up to 1 year. The ham is safe after 1 year, but the quality may suffer.