Ten years ago, when I started my carnivore journey, I knew I had to gain a deep understanding of food safety and preservation because meat and all of its variations were going to be the cornerstone of my new way of eating.
Today, I want to share my expertise on how long you can properly store ham in the fridge while preventing any risk of foodborne illness.
- Uncooked ham lasts as long as five days in the fridge, while unopened vacuum-sealed cooked ham can last up to two weeks.
- Store your ham tightly wrapped in plastic, aluminum foil, or in an airtight container.
- Freezing ham can extend its lifespan up to six months without degrading the flavor.
How Long Is Raw Ham Good For
If you don't use fresh hams within 5 days, it's best to freeze them to extend their shelf life.
Uncooked, dry-cured hams can be stored in the fridge for 7 days. This type of dry-cured ham is made with a salt solution, so it's more stable than fresh ham.
This goes for country ham as well.
How Long is Cooked Ham Good For
Fully cooked or half-cooked ham is good in the fridge for up to 5 days. If you won't use the meat within 7 days, it's best to freeze the fully cooked ham to extend its shelf life.
Vacuum-sealed ham that is store wrapped from the plant can last for two weeks in the fridge or until the expiration date.
However, the whole ham should be used within 5 days if the seal is broken.
Leftover ham should be treated like any other cooked ham.
You should eat ham within three to five days of cooking.
Smoked hams will last longer than fresh or cured hams, but the actual longevity depends on proper storage .
"Ham is the cured leg of pork. Fresh ham is an uncured leg of pork."
- U.S. Department of Agriculture
How To Store Ham
You can store ham in the refrigerator by wrapping it tightly in plastic or aluminum foil. You can also store sliced ham in an airtight container.
The refrigerator's temperature should be set at or below 40°F to keep the ham fresh for as long as possible.
The meat should be placed in the coldest part of the refrigerator, usually the back of the bottom shelf.
This will ensure that the meat will not be affected by temperature fluctuations when the refrigerator door is opened.
Safety considerations are also important when it comes to keeping cooked ham.
If you keep cooked ham, ensure it has cooled to room temperature before putting it in the fridge.
Putting hot meat in the refrigerator can cause the fridge's temperature to rise, leading to food spoilage.
Read More: How to Keep Meat Fresh
How To Make Ham Last Longer
If you need a longer shelf life than that recommended in the refrigerator, here are some tips:
- Properly stored ham can be stored in the freezer indefinitely, though the taste may degrade. You should really only store it for up to two months, although cured ham may last longer. Place the meat on the freezer floor.
- To prevent freezer burn and extend the ham’s shelf life, double-wrap the meat tightly in plastic wrap or foil before placing it in airtight containers or freezer bags. Label the package with the date so you know when it was frozen.
- Vacuum-sealed bags can help extend the shelf life of leftover ham by preventing exposure to air and moisture. This method is especially effective for wet-cured hams to stay fresh in the freezer.
- When ready to use the frozen ham leftovers, thaw them in the fridge overnight or in cold water. Do not thaw it at room temperature, which can promote bacterial growth.
- Remember that freezing can affect the texture of the ham over time, making it slightly drier and tougher. However, it is still safe and can be used in various dishes.
Also Read: How Long Does Fish Last in the Fridge
How To Tell If Ham Has Gone Bad
Eating ham that has spoiled can lead to severe food poisoning .
Here are some ways to tell if you have spoiled ham:
- Smell: If the meat has a sour smell or unpleasant odor, it is likely spoiled and should be discarded immediately. Ham should smell salty due to the sodium nitrate and pickling spice used in the curing process.
- Taste: If the ham tastes sour, bitter, or metallic, it is likely spoiled and should not be consumed.
- Texture: Fresh ham should feel moist and firm. If the meat feels sticky or has a slimy texture, it is likely spoiled and should be thrown away.
- Mold: If your ham starts to get mold on it, you should discard it immediately.
How Long Can Ham Sit Out Before It Is Bad?
A ham can sit out for no more than two hours before it is bad. If left out for longer than two hours, it can become a breeding ground for bacteria and pose a risk of illness.
What Are the Side Effects of Consuming Ham That Is Bad?
The side effects of consuming ham that is bad can range from mild stomach upset to severe cases of foodborne illness. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever.
What Does It Mean When Ham Goes Grey?
When ham goes grey, it means that it has gone off and should not be consumed. This color change occurs when the meat is exposed to air for too long, and bacteria begin to grow on the surface. It may also have a sulfur-like smell.