Fresh or cooked, ham is a delight that many of us enjoy having on the table. You can indulge in its yummy flavor at a picnic, over a dinner or barbecue, even at a family holiday meal. Though you may be a big fan of ham, you probably have often found yourself with plenty of leftovers.
As ham is usually sold in a big chunk, chances are you will not eat it all in one meal. So, what should you do with the remaining ham? Perhaps you already cooked it. Or maybe it is still fresh, but you know it will not stay like that for too long. Depending on what type of ham we are talking about, you may be able to refrigerate it for a couple of days. But what if you want to save it for much later?
If the thought of “Can I freeze ham?” has crossed your mind, keep reading. We have the answer to that and more in today’s article. Learn how to conserve ham properly so you can enjoy it over time.
Can I Freeze Ham?
The short answer is, obviously, yes, you can freeze ham. A rather simple and straightforward process like freezing can help you avoid waste. So the next time you see a sale promotion or you simply have too much ham leftover from a festive meal, you know what to do. Save it for later, in just a few steps. Frozen ham can be safely consumed over a period of up to six months or more.
Why Freeze Ham?
If you are wondering what are the benefits brought by freezing ham, well, here is a short list:
- Avoid food waste
You may not necessarily consider the world hunger problem after a rich meal with your loved ones. But you will probably appreciate the idea of saving something for a later snack, if possible. As any meat products, ham is rather sensitive so you need to ensure you preserve it well. Freezing gives you that possibility. You have to admit, a ham and cheese sandwich when your fridge is kinda empty sounds good, no?
- Straightforward process
The good news is that freezing ham is almost a child’s play. Whether you wish to freeze it fresh or cooked, the process does not ask for a thorough preparation. You just wrap it and seal it and off to the freezer it goes.
- Safe preservation
As processed meat can go bad pretty easily, it is important to ensure you preserve it properly. Freezing your leftover ham allows you to conserve its taste and properties with no risk.
How To Freeze Ham Best?
On or off the bone, fresh, roasted, sliced or whole, ham requires little preparation to freeze. And the best part of this preservation method is that the flavor and taste remain unaltered. So you can enjoy a juicy piece of ham even a couple of weeks later.
We recommend you to divide the ham into portions before freezing. It is more efficient to take just enough ham for a meal rather than defrosting a big chunk and get leftovers (again). Individual packaging helps in planning meals ahead. That can come in handy if you need to prepare a quick lunch. And also, if you plan to start a diet before the quarantine ends.
So, if your ham is not sliced, start by cutting it into portions. Use a sharp knife for easy and smooth processing. Pick your preferred thickness. Do keep in mind that thicker slices defrost better.
If you want to freeze roasted ham, make sure it has cooled off well. You can even put it in the refrigerator for a little while. Once it is cool enough, wipe it dry with a paper towel. Removing excess humidity is important for better preservation. Proceed with slicing or leave it in a bigger chunk, as you wish.
Once you finish dividing, it is time to pack. Put your sliced ham in a freezer bag and seal it. Take out as much air as possible, to create a vacuum effect. Wrap it in aluminum foil, to prevent it from getting too dry. Then place it in another sealing bag and off to the freezer. The extra-layers help maintain the optimal humidity level. As you know, the water in the meat can evaporate when frozen for longer periods of time. And you want your ham to be juicy and tasting as good as fresh when you unfreeze it.
You can safely keep it in the freezer for up to 6 months. We strongly recommend you to consume it within this timeframe, to get the best of that piece of ham. Of course, it may be safe to eat even later, but most likely, the quality of the meat will change. Plus, you will have to be extra careful when thawing it. You definitely want to avoid food poisoning.
To make sure your frozen ham does not end up forgotten at the bottom of your freezer drawer, label it. Write on the package the date when you freeze it, even the amount inside. Additionally, you can mention the purpose you had in mind, such as “For Carbonara”, to help you when you are on a rush.
How To Unfreeze Ham Safely?
While freezing ham is a no-brainer, you should be a bit more careful when defrosting it. Do not worry, it is not as complicated as it may sound though. According to USDA, fresh ham can be safely frozen for up to six months. Here are the recommendations regarding the best ways to unfreeze it.
- Thaw your ham only in the refrigerator. Processed meat is highly sensitive to temperature variations, so you want to be on the safe side.
- Do not leave your ham to unfreeze in the sink or at room temperature. That can really harm the quality of the meat and create a favorable environment for bacteria to grow.
- Another method is to put the frozen ham in the microwave. This is only if you actually plan to cook it immediately after thawing.
- If ham looks slimy or has a sour smell, do not eat it. These are clear signs that the meat has gone bad and it is no longer safe to eat. This applies to both fresh or unfrozen ham.
How To Use Frozen Ham?
There are options galore when it comes to cooking ham. So, once your piece is fully thawed, you have to quickly decide on how to consume it.
You can, of course, just eat it cold. We refer here to cooked or processed ham. This can work great for sandwiches or salads for example. If you simply froze fresh ham, you should not do this.
Add in a bit of creativity and cook it. Make it the surprise ingredient in your day-to-day recipes, such as omelettes or pasta. Or turn your meal into a special occasion with a more consistent pizza or a ham-based dish. If you have little time on your hands, you can always prepare a brunch hash with ham.
It all comes down to your personal preferences. To help you out, we picked one recipe that really got our taste buds hyped. What better way to end this reading than with some mouthwatering ideas to get you motivated? Honest advice, do not read them if you are really hungry or if you are short on ham supplies. We know it will only make you crave even more.
Bonus: Some Yum-Yum Leftover Ham Recipes
Try this Ham and Potato Casserole that will make you want to go start your oven right away. Delicious and easy to prepare, it can be a great meal for any dinner. Indulge yourself with this cheesy dish, rich in ham and potatoes. You only need 20 minutes to prepare it, then leave it in the oven for about an hour. Talk about a dinner that almost makes itself, right? Budget-friendly and time-saving, this recipe will definitely win you from the first bite.
If you crave some ham and cheese with a special twist, try this. This Baked Ham Macaroni and Cheese recipe is a no-brainer, but will sweep your taste buds away. The cheese monsters out there will certainly love the combination with smoky ham.
If you have a friends gathering coming up, try these Hawaiian Ham & Cheese Party Sandwiches. They are super-simple to make, look irresistible and taste even better. The exotic touch of the pineapple will charm everyone from the first (and not only) bite.
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