Can You Freeze Ham to Use Later?
There is nothing more delicious than a holiday ham, and, if it were for my boys, we would eat it every day until we run out of it entirely. Luckily, it isn't up to them, and, when it comes to the kitchen, I'm the boss, the captain, and the king.
I don’t know about you, but when I prepare ham, there is always plenty of it to spare. Each time we have a huge family discussion about should we eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner until we get to the bone. I admit, I've let them win one year because I was too tired to prepare a fresh meal three times a day.
Still, usually I love when our nutrition is diverse, and I won’t have a piece of ham ruining my plans.
If you have ever found yourself in a similar situation, you’ve probably wondered can you freeze ham and use it later, without it losing its taste and becoming watery (since it is already very high in moisture).
Of course, you can, you just need to know a few things before you do it.
Types of Ham You Can Freeze
The only ham that shouldn’t be put in the freezer is the one packed in a can container that wasn’t previously opened. You will be able to freeze it only when you’ve opened the can and took the ham out of it. Other than this, all hams can be frozen, starting from sliced to raw, you just need to apply different methods to pack them.
Believe it or not, even ham bone can be frozen. This is a bit more difficult, but you wouldn't believe how useful can that be when you're in a hurry and want to leave a big ham bone for soup, meat stock, bean or rice porridge.
The Quality of Ham
Lower-quality hams usually contain a lot of water, and after freezing, they can become mushy. Depending on the curing process there can be two types of ham: city (cured by submerging the ham in salt water) and country (hung to dry in controlled environments).
If you are buying ham in the US, it is more likely that you'll end up with a city ham. There is nothing wrong with these hams, though. My family loves them, but, if you are not careful enough, you may end up with more water than meat. City hams are often injected with additional water to bulk up their weight. The moisture content of the ham will be easily recognized only by reading the label:
- “Ham” label means there is no added water.
- “Ham with natural juices” translates to about 18 percent of protein and 8 percent added water.
- “Ham with water added” usually has 10 percent added water and 17 percent protein.
- "Ham and water product" can contain any amount of water. If you fall into the trap of buying it, don't even try to freeze it.
I’ve first tried country ham when my friend who now lives in Italy visited us. I must tell you – it’s not for everyone. While I learned to appreciate its delicate smoky taste, my kids were shocked by its saltiness. If you don’t mind the salt, you will have a great time with this piece of ham, and it will be easy to freeze it.
How to Pack the Ham Properly?
Proper packing is what separates ready-to-eat and good-to-waste ham. If you want to preserve the flavor, aroma, integrity and texture of the meat, you should wrap the ham tightly. The safest and quickest way to go is with a vacuum packing machine, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only way to go.
Packing sliced ham:
- Wrap each slice in foil.
- Put a couple of slices in each package.
- Use freezer or aluminum foil.
Packing a whole ham:
- If the ham is in its original package and if you use it within one month, you can put it directly in the freezer.
- If you want to freeze it for a couple of months, wrap in several layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil or put it in a freezer bag. Make sure you squeeze all the air out of the bag, though.
- If the ham is opened, first wrap it in aluminum foil, and then put it in a freezer bag.
How Long Can Frozen Ham Last?
The most extended period I've kept ham in the freezer was about one month, and that happened only because I forgot I even had it because there is no way a delicious ham will survive in my family for that long.
However, experts know best, and they say that frozen fresh (uncooked and uncured) ham can last for up to six months in the freezer, while cooked ham can remain unspoiled for about two months or less. For example, the recommended freezing time for some country hams is about one month.
If you are buying larger amounts of ham you’re planning on freezing, it is always best to go with the uncooked option.
De-Frosting the Ham
Last year my older boy wanted to surprise me by preparing Mother's Day dinner, so he took the ham out of the freezer, put it in a ceramic bowl in the microwave and turned on the "defrost" option. Now, I really get his logic; it says "defrost" so why wouldn't it work?
Still, that didn't prevent us from dumping the ham and eating pizza that night.
The meat had that odd half-cooked half-expired smell, and although this doesn’t necessarily mean that it was actually bad, it did look and taste bad.
I would always go with the fridge thawing rather than the microwave. To do that, just put the ham on a plate and in the refrigerator, and let things go their course. You can also submerge it in water (with the foil still on its outside). If you thaw the ham in one of this ways, you will be able to keep it in the fridge for at least a month, while it still retaining its taste.
Ideas for Holiday Ham Leftovers
It doesn’t matter if you want to use the ham right after the holidays or after thawing, there are various delicious meals you can prepare with it. Here are two of my family’s favorites:
Ham & Pineapple Pizza
This is something my boys prepare when they want to reward me for my hard work during holidays, and why wouldn't them, it's straightforward and quick.
- Pre-made pizza dough
- 2 cups shredded cheese (using a rotary cheese grater)
- 5 – 10 slices leftover ham
- ½ fresh pineapple (sliced into bite size pieces)
- 1 tbsp corn meal
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Preheat oven according to instructions on the pizza dough packing.
- Spread cornmeal evenly on the bottom of the Copper Chef pan or using a pizza stone.
- Roll out pizza dough and slightly fold the edges.
- Add toppings: cheese, ham, pineapple
- Sprinkle with oregano and salt, drizzle with olive oil.
- Bake up to 20 minutes.
An easy-breezy quiche that is quite a relief after the exhausting holiday preparations.
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups milk
- ¼ cup biscuit baking mix
- 1 cup grated Parmesan
- ¼ cup butter
- 10 ounce chopped broccoli
- 10 ounce chopped red bell pepper
- 8 ounces shredded Cheddar
- 1 cup cubed cooked ham
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees (or using an oven thermometer).
- Lightly grease a 10-inch quiche dish.
- Beat all the ingredients together in a large bowl.
- Pour into the quiche dish.
- Bake for about 50 minutes.
So, to answer the question from the top of the text: Can you freeze ham to use later? You can, and it is really easy when you get used to it. I do it on a regular basis.
When freezing the ham, just remember to wrap it tightly and pay attention to expiration dates. Also, avoid ham that is packed with water, since it can be mushy and lose its texture after freezing.