Everyone loves holidays, right? The October through December “Holiday Season” is perhaps the best of all. While spending time with family and perhaps opening presents is great, my personal favorite thing about holidays is the food! I usually don’t like to eat to the point where I have to unbutton my pants, but on Thanksgiving and Christmas, I really have no choice!
Of all of the holiday dishes, mashed potatoes, baked vegetables, green bean casserole, scalloped potatoes, roasted turkey, etc., one of the most iconic is a big chunk of roast ham that dominates the dining table.
Whilst roast ham is extremely tasty when it’s fresh out of the oven, it’s almost as good in the days after as well. But, what happens if you have just too much of it leftover? Can you freeze cooked ham? Yes! You can certainly freeze cooked ham. So, don’t fret about any of that scrumptious ham going to waste – you can enjoy ham sandwiches even months later!
Read on to learn everything you need to know about freezing cooked ham.
Does Cooked Ham Freeze Well?
Yup, cooked ham actually freezes quite well as long as you take care of it. You can freeze all sorts of ham as well as whole ham or sliced ham. Since you most likely spent a lot of time and effort on it, you should really make sure to take care of it when you put it in the freezer.
This is because, while it does freeze generally well if you don’t prepare it properly or you leave it in the freezer for too long, the quality will suffer and it may even go bad due to spoilage or freezer burn – both of which will cause you to have to throw away your beloved cooked ham.
So, before you go and put your leftover cooked ham in the freezer you should think about a couple of things beforehand, because once your freeze it, it can’t be undone!
Luckily, ham retains its texture and flavor pretty well, however, if you freeze your ham and then defrost it, you may immediately notice something – some discoloration.
This may depend on the ham, though, as different types of ham have a different appearance like honey ham, city ham, country ham, boneless ham, etc. But, if you do notice a change from the ‘normal’ color of your ham, don’t worry. This can happen even after just a couple of weeks in the freezer and it will still be totally fine and the flavor and texture shouldn’t be too different.
Once frozen ham has thawed, you may notice something else. That it doesn’t quite taste the same. This is also to be expected depending on how long you’ve kept it in the freezer.
After a month or two, the flavors will start to deteriorate.
So, while it will still be in decent shape for even a few months after that, any longer than one or two months, you’ll start to notice more and more of a decrease in the tastiness of the ham.
So, try to defrost it and eat it as soon as possible!
How Long Does Cooked Ham Last in the Freezer?
So, this isn’t quite so straightforward. This is because the maximum period you should keep cooked ham in the freezer depends on the type or cut of the ham. It can range from one month to four months.
But, no matter which cut of ham you freeze, make sure to freeze it properly to prevent spoilage or freezer burn. Let’s check out how long these different types of ham can last in the freezer.
- When it comes to freshly cooked sliced ham, it can last up to three months in the freezer.
- Store-bought cooked ham slices can last in the freezer for only about one month.
- Large chunks or joints of cooked ham will last the longest. They can last for up to four months in the freezer.
For all of these numbers, though, it’s important to note that if the time period lapses, you don’t need to directly throw it away.
These are suggested periods of time. The actual time may be longer or shorter, just be sure to check for signs that the ham has gone bad (more on that later).
But, a good rule of thumb is that the shorter amount of time it’s frozen, the better.
How to Freeze Cooked Ham
Okay, now let’s get into the nitty-gritty bits of how you should go about freezing ham. For the best results, you should have paper towels and a vacuum sealer on hand.
Alternatively, if you don’t have a vacuum sealer, you can also use standard freezer bags and plastic wrap. This is how you should freeze your cooked ham.
- First, you need to allow the ham to cool. It’s important that you don’t place the ham when it’s still hot into the fridge or freezer. Allow the ham to cool at room temperature but it shouldn’t be kept at that temperature for too long. It’s important that you continue with the freezer preparation as soon as it’s cooled down to prevent bacterial growth.
- While the ham is in the cooling process, you can prepare the ham into portions or chunks that you’ll like in the future. It’s better to have more portions that you can take rather than to defrost more than you can use.
- Once it’s cooled and you’ve prepared the cuts, dry the ham using paper towels. By removing any excess moisture on the surface, you can help fight the occurrence of ice crystals that can harm the ham.
- Next, wrap up the individual portions in a layer (or two) of freezer wrap or heavy duty aluminum foil.
- Then, place the wrapped pieces of ham into a freezer bag or airtight container. Press out as much air as you can and seal the bag or container.
- Label the bag and then place it in the freezer.
How to Defrost Frozen Cooked Ham
For the best results, you should thaw ham as slowly as possible. I personally like to leave it in the refrigerator overnight.
That way it’s defrosted and ready to use the next day and I didn’t have to worry about leaving it out at room temperature for too long, or drying out the meat in the microwave.
Using Cooked Ham After Freezing
Unlike some foods that have been frozen and defrosted, you can use ham any way that you can use freshly cooked ham.
It may be slightly drier than when it’s fresh, but you won’t notice the difference like you can with frozen dairy products or some other foods.
Some of my favorite ways to use cooked after ham after freezing are:
- Ham and cheese omelets
- Breakfast hash
- Chicken cordon bleu
- Ham sandwiches
Can You Refreeze Cooked Ham?
Refreezing foods can be a hot topic because while it can be fine to refreeze some foods if you are very careful about how they are handled. They should be kept at least refrigerated at all times, not exposed to room temperature for long periods, etc. However, if you defrost and refreeze something, the quality will almost always suffer.
When it comes to refreezing ham, it may be slightly dangerous and the quality will suffer.
Defrosted meats should generally not be refrozen under any circumstances.
Constant exposure to severe temperature changes will degrade your ham on a cellular level, making it nearly inedible as the flavor, color, and texture will all change.
This will make your ham more vulnerable to the spread of dangerous germs. That’s especially important if you’re defrosting a significant amount of ham at the same time.
To avoid waste, try to only defrost what you plan on using for sure. You can always defrost more!
How to Tell if Cooked Ham has Gone Bad
Like other meats, it’s pretty obvious when cooked ham has gone bad.
The first way to see if it’s gone bad is by looking at it. If it’s still frozen and it’s totally covered in ice, then it’s probably bad but you should wait and see after it’s been defrosted to tell for sure.
Once it’s defrosted you can tell if it’s bad if you see that it’s slimy or discolored to a dark greyish color beyond your own comfort.
However, it may not be quite that obvious by looking at it.
But, using your sight and sense of smell, you can certainly tell. If it looks questionable but also has a strong sour smell, then it should be immediately discarded.