With the winter chill setting in and the holiday season in full effect, kitchens become bustling hubs of culinary adventure and the beginning of unforgettable family gatherings. And when it comes to simplifying meal prep during these hectic times, freezing ham emerges as a lifesaving hack. Whether you're preparing for a future holiday get-together or simply have ham leftovers from a cozy winter dinner, we're exploring everything you need to know about freezing ham and maximizing its shelf life.
Savoring the season: Maximizing holiday ham's potential
In the winter, it's not uncommon for ham to take center stage in countless holiday meals and gatherings. As these special occasions unfold and you find yourself with leftovers, don't throw them away; you can easily freeze them. This is not only a great way to minimize food waste, but it's also the perfect way to have succulent sliced ham ready to go for your next meal. From keeping family meal traditions alive during the holiday rush to elevating appetizers for your next party, frozen ham becomes a versatile ally in the kitchen.
Step-by-step instructions for freezing cooked ham
Before diving in, you might be wondering "Does ham freeze well?" The short answer is, yes! You can freeze delicious ham and it'll last for weeks before you need to use it. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that fully cooked frozen ham is safe to eat for up to one to two months. If you find yourself with leftover ham, freezing it for future use is both easy and convenient. Here's everything you need to know to freeze your leftovers properly:
- Step 1: If you're moving cooked ham to the freezer immediately, make sure you let the meat cool fully before preparing it. Feel free to freeze leftover cooked ham as a whole or in slices, depending on whether you'll need smaller or larger portions later on.
- Step 2: To freeze ham slices, cut the meat into your preferred portions. It's helpful to note that most recipes call for between 8 and 12 ounces. Or, if you know you'll be using these leftovers for soup or salad, consider dicing the ham into cubes.
- Step 3: Now, you can tightly wrap either the whole cooked ham or each ham slice individually using plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Make sure there aren't any gaps left over to avoid freezer burn.
- Step 4: Move your wrapped ham to an airtight container or freezer bag. Tip: Don't forget to label your bags with the date and the measurement of your portion size, so you can easily check for food safety and reuse later on.
- Step 5: Finally, store the airtight container or bag in your freezer for one to two months.
Ready to get started on your next ham recipe? Head to your local grocery store to pick up your favorite Hatfield® pork products today!
How to defrost frozen cooked ham
According to the USDA, there are three safe and reliable ways to thaw frozen ham: in the refrigerator, in cold water (in an airtight or leak-proof bag), and the microwave. Let's take a closer look at each of these methods in more detail:
- In the refrigerator: The USDA typically recommends using the refrigerator to thaw ham, as it's the easiest and safest method. This slow process should take about four to six hours per pound to defrost completely.
- In cold water: If you choose to thaw your frozen cooked ham using the cold water technique, make sure you've moved the portions you plan to use to a sealed, leak-proof bag. Then, you can submerge it in a bowl of cold tap water, replacing it every 30 minutes. Expect defrosting time to take about half an hour per pound.
- In the microwave: When you're running low on time, microwaving is an option — but it's not ideal. For ham slices or smaller portions, you can defrost the meat in 30-second intervals until thawed. For a larger amount, place it unwrapped on a microwave-safe plate and use the defrost setting. Keep in mind that the time will change depending on weight.
Explore frozen ham frequently asked questions
Discover some of the most frequently asked questions when freezing cooked meat:
How long does ham last in the freezer?
How long frozen sliced ham lasts and maintains quality can vary depending on the type of ham you have left over. The USDA recommends the following:
- Fresh, uncured, uncooked ham: six months.
- Fresh, uncured, cooked ham: three to four months.
- Cured, cook-before-eating ham (sliced or whole): three to four months.
- Fully cooked, unopened ham: one to two months.
- Cooked, whole ham: one to two months.
- Cooked slices, half, or spiral ham: one to two months.
- Cooked country ham: one month.
Can I cook a frozen ham without thawing it?
Cooking frozen ham without thawing isn't generally recommended because of safety and quality concerns. When you thaw ham, you promote more even cooking, reducing the risk of undercooking or uneven temperatures within the meat. While it's feasible to cook from frozen, keep in mind that this method often leads to longer cooking times and potentially uneven cooking that can lead to food safety risks. However, if you're in a pinch for time, you'll need to allow at least 1.5 times the usual cooking duration for thawed ham. Be sure to use a meat thermometer to make sure it's reached an internal temperature of 145°F for safe consumption.
Is it better to freeze ham whole or sliced?
While you can freeze ham either way, sliced ham is generally more convenient for portioning. On the other hand, freezing it whole might be a better option if you're looking to maintain presentation or need it for larger uses. As long as you store your leftovers properly, both will be safe in the freezer for up to two months.
Can I refreeze the ham after use?
Refreezing ham after thawing typically isn't recommended for safety and quality reasons. This is because once the meat has thawed, bacteria can easily and quickly develop — which affects not only the taste of the ham but also its safety. Aim to use up your leftovers after the initial thaw to maintain taste and prevent potential health risks.
Perfectly frozen ham starts with superior ingredients
With all of these tips and tricks for freezing ham in mind, remember: the higher the quality of the ham, the better it freezes. Hatfield® stands as a trusted pork provider offering premium, pre-seasoned hams that ensure exceptional taste from the start. Whether it's a cozy family dinner or a special holiday gathering, high-quality pork can elevate the occasion. From Hatfield® Honey Roasted Boneless Ham to Hatfield® Hardwood Smoked Boneless Ham, explore a range of quality ingredients that set the stage for culinary success.
Ready to start your next mealtime adventure with high-quality, flavorful pork? You can head to your local grocery store to pick up your favorite Hatfield® pork products today!