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How Long Can You Keep Ham in the Fridge?

by California Digital News

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Ham is a versatile ingredient that can be the star of a holiday table or added to a variety of dishes for a salty, tender and satisfying bite. And ham is absolutely delicious added to our morning eggs, and piled on our favorite sandwiches

But do you know how long you can keep ham in the fridge before it goes bad?

Ham is a cured meat that has been treated with salt and other preservatives to prevent spoilage. But that doesn’t mean it will last forever. Knowing how to keep ham fresh is key to extending its shelf life.

And it can also help you save money and avoid unnecessary food waste.

While proper storage and handling can extend the shelf life of ham, it’s important to know how long it’s safe to store ham in the fridge and recognize signs of spoilage so you don’t get sick. 

Important Points

Here are some things you’ll learn in this post:

  • Proper refrigeration is necessary to extend the shelf life of ham.
  • Learn to recognize signs of spoilage can prevent food-borne illness.
  • Know the right refrigeration guidelines and safety practices to follow to ensure the quality and safety of ham.

 

Types of Ham

Ham is a popular meat product that is prepared and enjoyed in a variety of styles around the world.

There are many types of ham, including:

  • Cooked Ham: Usually pre-cooked, sliced, and packaged for convenience, this is the most common type of ham found in supermarkets. 
  • Dry-cured Ham: An ancient preservation practice invented to preserve ham and other foods when refrigeration wasn’t an option. Dry-curing involves covering ham in salt and spices, which is then air-dried for several months. Prociutto di Parma (Italy), Jamón Serrano (Spain) and Jambon d’Auvergne (France) are popular styles of dry-cured ham.
  • Wet-cured Ham: A method that came along after refrigeration, this method is used to brine a ham in a mixture of salt, sugar, water and spices until a desired flavor is reached. It then often smoked afterward.
  • Smoked Ham: Smoked ham is typically made by smoking a cooked or brined ham to give it a distinct smokey, wood flavor. It can be smoked over a variety of woods like mesquite, oak, apple wood to give the ham a specific flavor.

How to Preserve Ham For Freshness

The Factors That Affect Ham Shelf Life

The shelf life of ham can vary depending on several factors, including:

  • The type of ham.
  • Its packaging.
  • The storage temperature.
  • It’s freshness when purchased.

Cooked ham typically has a shorter shelf life than dry-cured ham.
Once opened:

  • Cooked ham should be consumed within 3-5 days.
  • Dry-cured ham can last for several weeks when stored properly.

The packaging can also affect the shelf life of ham.

Vacuum-sealed packaging can help to extend the shelf life of ham by preventing the growth of bacteria. Once opened, the ham should be transferred to an airtight container or resealed in its original packaging to prevent spoilage.

Ham should be stored in the refrigerator at a temperature of 40°F or below.

The colder the temperature, the longer the ham will last. Freezing ham can also extend its shelf life, but it may affect the texture and flavor of the meat.

 

Refrigeration Guidelines For Different Ham Styles

When storing ham in the fridge, it’s important to follow proper guidelines to ensure it stays fresh and safe to eat.

To ensure the ham stays fresh and safe to eat, store it in the coldest part of your fridge (usually the back), and keep it wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or air-tight container to prevent contamination from other foods in the fridge.

Here are some general guidelines for storing ham:

Whole Ham

  • Unopened whole ham can be stored in the fridge for up to 7 days.
  • Once you’ve opened the packaging, ham should be eaten within 3-5 days.
  • To extend the shelf life of the ham, you can also freeze it for up to 6 months.

Sliced Ham

  • Sliced ham can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days.
  • If the ham is opened, it should be consumed within 3-5 days. 
  • To keep the ham fresh for a longer period, you can also freeze it for up to 2 months.

Cooked Ham

  • Cooked ham can be stored in the fridge for up to 7 days.
  • If the ham is opened, it should be consumed within 3-5 days.
  • Freezing cooked ham is also an option, and it can be stored for up to 2 months.

It’s important to note that these are general guidelines, and the storage time may vary depending on the type and quality of the ham, as well as the temperature and humidity of your fridge.

By following these guidelines, you can enjoy delicious ham without worrying about food safety issues.

Quick Chart 

Shelf Life Guidelines Storage Recommendations Freezing Guidelines
Whole Ham Up to 7 days (unopened), 3-5 days (opened) Up to 6 months
Sliced Ham Up to 5 days Up to 2 months
Cooked Ham Up to 7 days Up to 2 months

Note: These are general guidelines; actual storage time may vary based on ham type, quality, and fridge conditions.

Recognizing Spoilage

Even if we store food properly, it’s important to recognize the signs of spoilage to avoid food poisoning.

Spoilage can occur because of various reasons, such as improper storage, contamination, or simply because the ham has been in the fridge for too long.

Here are some ways to recognize spoilage:

Visual Cues of Ham Spoilage

Visual indicators are the easiest way to recognize spoilage in ham. If you see any mold growth, discoloration, or slimy texture on the ham, it’s a clear sign that it’s gone bad.

Do the Sniff Test

By keeping an eye out for signs of spoilage, you can ensure that your ham is fresh and safe to eat. If you notice any off-putting smells such as a sour, off-putting or rancid odors, it’s best to throw the ham away.

Always use your best judgment and follow the “smell test.” If the ham smells off or has an unusual texture, it’s best to err on the side of caution and discard it.

If you notice any signs of spoilage, such as a foul odor or slimy texture, it’s best to discard the ham.

How to Prevent the Risk of Foodborne Illness

When handling and storing ham, it’s important to follow proper food safety practices.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Wash Your Hands Before Handling Ham

It’s important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before and after handling the meat. This helps to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria.

Use Separate Cutting Boards

When serving cooked ham, switch out the cutting board and utensils you used to prepare it uncooked. This can help prevent cross-contamination.

Storing Ham

To store ham properly, it’s important to keep it at a safe temperature to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. According to a study on home storage temperatures and consumer handling of refrigerated foods in Sweden, the ideal temperature for storing ham is between 0-4°C (32-39°F) (1).

It’s also important to check the expiration date on the ham packaging and follow any storage instructions provided.

If the ham is already cooked, it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.

If it’s uncooked, it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Alternatively, you can freeze cooked or uncooked ham for up to 2 months (2).

By following these safety practices, you can ensure that your ham stays fresh and safe to eat.

 

How to Extend the Shelf Life of Ham

If you want to keep your ham fresh for an extended period, there are a few methods you can use to extend its shelf life. Below are two of of the most popular methods.

Freezing

Freezing ham is a great way to extend its shelf life if you know you won’t be able to eat it all within a few days.

To freeze ham, wrap it tightly in freezer bag and then for extra protection place it in a freezer-safe container. Labeling it with a date can help you keep track of how long the ham has been in the freezer.

Handy Food Freezing Tools:

When you’re ready to use the frozen ham, remove it from the freezer and let it thaw in the refrigerator. It’s important to note that while freezing retains the flavor of ham, the texture may change, leaving it spongy and slightly drier. 

Vacuum Sealing

Vacuum sealing works by first removing all the air from the plastic packaging. Then a heated bar fuses the open sides of the packaging closed, so air can’t leak back into the bag.

This process helps to prevent bacteria growth and slows down the oxidation process so you can keep your ham fresher for longer.

To vacuum seal ham, you’ll need a vacuum sealer and vacuum sealer bags.

Even when vacuum sealing, label it with the date you packaged it to keep track of when it was first stored.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does sliced ham remain edible when refrigerated?

Sliced ham can remain edible for three to five days when refrigerated properly at a temperature of 40°F or below. This is the optimal temperature for preventing the growth of bacteria that can cause food-borne illnesses.

Eat the sliced ham within the first three days of refrigeration to ensure maximum freshness.

What is the shelf life of cooked ham in the refrigerator?

Cooked ham can last up to seven days when refrigerated properly. It is important to store the ham in an airtight container or bag to prevent moisture loss.

If the ham has been sliced, it is recommended to consume it within the first three to five days of refrigeration.

How long can smoked ham be safely stored in the fridge?

Smoked ham can last up to two weeks when refrigerated at a temperature of 40°F or below to prevent the growth of bacteria.

If the ham has been sliced, it is recommended to consume it within the first week of refrigeration.

What’s the maximum duration for keeping ham on the bone refrigerated?

Ham on the bone can last up to five days when refrigerated properly. It is important to store the ham in an airtight container or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil to prevent moisture loss.

If the ham has been sliced, it is recommended to consume it within the first three to five days of refrigeration.

After being thawed, how long is ham viable in the fridge?

Once thawed, ham can last up to five days when refrigerated properly.

It is important to store the ham in an airtight container or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil to prevent moisture loss.

If the ham has been sliced, it is recommended to consume it within the first three to five days of refrigeration.

What is the refrigerated shelf life of cooked spiral ham?

Cooked spiral ham can last up to seven days when refrigerated properly.

It is important to store the ham in an airtight container or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil to prevent moisture loss.

If the ham has been sliced, it is recommended to consume it within the first three to five days of refrigeration.



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