Ham, which is meat from the pig’s rear legs, is nutritious and delicious, and you can use it in different recipes. You can buy fresh ham or cured ham in small or large quantities, and if you have excess, you can temporarily preserve it in the fridge. So, how about freezing; can you freeze ham?
You can freeze any type of ham, as it freezes and thaws well. When you freeze ham properly and thaw it safely, it retains its freshness, quality, and nutrients and tastes great when you’re ready to eat it. It’s best to use the frozen ham within 4 to 6 months as its quality may decline afterward.
In this article, I will discuss what happens when you freeze ham and some reasons why you should freeze it. I’ll also explain how to freeze cooked and uncooked ham properly, thaw ham safely, and how to handle the thawed ham. Let’s go!
Freezing Ham Ensures It Stays Fresh for Several Months
Freezing food is an effective preservation method man has used since ice and freezers have been around. When you freeze ham, the cold temperatures in the freezer turn the ham into a solid frozen mass. The cold temperatures prevent mold growth, yeasts, and harmful bacteria that can cause food-borne ailments and food spoilage.
As a result, the ham remains fresh and safe to eat for months. You can freeze fresh, uncooked ham for six months and already cooked ham for up to four months. According to the USDA, so long as the ham is frozen, it remains safe to eat indefinitely; but the quality, flavor, and texture may decline over time.
3 Reasons You Should Freeze Ham
As mentioned above, freezing is an effective preservation method for ham and other meat. Below are several reasons you should freeze ham:
Freezing Ham Keeps It Safe
When you store ham in the fridge, it stays fresh for about four days. But since the temperatures in the refrigerator aren’t cold enough, yeasts, molds, and harmful bacteria will eventually contaminate the food.
However, if you freeze ham, it remains safe to eat for months as freezing prevents the growth of harmful bacteria.
Freezing Helps You Prevent Waste
If you have excess cooked or fresh ham, you should not allow it to go to waste; it costs you money, not to mention the guilt of wasting food.
The best way of preventing waste and the associated guilt is by freezing the ham while it’s still fresh. Your ham will stay fresh and safe in the freezer until you need it.
You’ll Always Have Frozen Ham Ready for Your Meal Prep
When prepping your weekly or monthly meals, cooked ham is one of the meats you can include in your list.
It’s best to divide the cooked ham into portions before freezing. This strategy allows you to quickly pick the amount you need whenever you require ham for your meal. It’ll also make your life easy and ensure you meet your nutritional needs.
How To Freeze Cooked Ham Properly
It’s essential to freeze cooked ham correctly to maintain its safety, freshness, quality, flavor, and texture. Here are the steps you need to follow to freeze cooked ham properly:
- Allow the ham to cool completely at room temperature after cooking. Putting hot or warm food in the freezer can raise the freezer’s temperature and thus cause all the food in the freezer to go bad.
- Slice the ham into thick slices. Thick ham slices freeze and thaw better than thin slices.
- Wrap each ham slice with aluminum foil. Doing this prevents the ham from drying out and helps you pick your desired portions when cooking later.
- Place the wrapped ham slices neatly in freezer bags. Freezer bags are great because removing excess air from them is easier than rigid containers.
- Remove excess air. Press out any air from the freezer bags to prevent freezer burn.
- Close the freezer bags. Properly sealed freezer bags will keep the air out.
- Label the freezer bags with dates. Dating the freezer bags will ensure that you use the ham within a reasonable amount of time.
- Arrange the freezer bags flat. Placing the freezer bags in the freezer flat creates room for other items in the freezer.
How To Freeze Fresh Ham Properly
The way you freeze fresh ham will also determine whether it’ll maintain its quality, taste, and freshness. Below is how to freeze fresh uncooked ham properly:
- Divide the ham into your desired portions.
- Wrap each portion using freezer paper or aluminum foil to prevent moisture loss.
- Place the wrapped ham in freezer bags.
- Remove excess air from the freezer bags to prevent freezer burn.
- Close the freezer bags properly to prevent air from entering.
- Label the bags with dates.
- Arrange the freezer bags neatly in the freezer.
How To Thaw Ham Safely (2 Ways)
The way you thaw fresh or cooked ham determines its freshness, safety, and quality when you finally eat it. Here’s how to thaw both cooked and fresh ham safely.
Thaw Ham in the Fridge
Putting your ham in the fridge is the safest way of thawing the meat because the temperatures in the fridge are low. The ham thaws slowly in the refrigerator while maintaining its safety, texture, and flavor. Here’s how to thaw ham in the fridge:
- Remove the portions of ham you require from the freezer.
- Put the wrapped portions in a container so that any unfreezing liquid can settle on the container.
- Cover the container and place it in the fridge.
- Allow the ham to thaw completely in the fridge; it may take over 24 hours to defrost, based on the size of the ham.
- Remove the ham from the fridge and if you’ve already cooked it, reheat it thoroughly. If it’s fresh, cook it using your preferred method.
Thaw Ham in Cold Water
Another method of thawing ham safely is by putting it in cold water. Defrosting in water is faster than defrosting in the fridge; it takes about an hour to thaw, depending on how big the ham is. Here’s how to thaw ham in cold water:
- Remove the portions of ham you need from the freezer.
- Put cold water in a large bowl.
- Immerse the frozen ham freezer bag into the cold water and put the bowl on the countertop or in the sink.
- Cover the bowl.
- Allow the ham to thaw completely.
- Replenish the cold water in the bowl every half hour to ensure the ham remains fresh.
- Remove the ham from the freezer bag and cook or reheat it.
Cook or Reheat Your Ham After Thawing It in the Fridge
After thawing ham in the fridge, you can reheat or cook it immediately or keep it in the fridge for a bit longer. So long as you use the thawed ham within three days, you can allow it to stay in the refrigerator where it will remain fresh and safe to eat.
If you don’t use the thawed ham within three days, it becomes stale and unsafe to eat.
Cook or Reheat Your Ham Right After Thawing It in Cold Water
Once you thaw ham in cold water, it’s best to cook or reheat it immediately. The reason is that when defrosting ham in cold water under room temperature, the chances of the ham attracting harmful bacteria increase.
When you cook the thawed ham immediately, you’re sure of its freshness and safety.
Ham is popular during holidays such as Christmas and Easter, but you can also use it to meet your daily protein needs.
Ham is easy to prepare because you don’t have to make it with sauce or gravy. You can make sandwiches, scrambles, roast or bake it and serve it with simple vegetable dishes and salads.
If you have leftover cooked ham or lots of fresh ham, you can preserve it for future use by freezing it. If you freeze the ham correctly while it’s still fresh and thaw it safely, it will remain safe and good to eat for months.