How to Thaw Frozen Ham? (4 Ways of Making It Perfect)

Gabriel Woods
Published by Gabriel Woods
Last Updated On: December 4, 2023

As a passionate carnivore lifestylist, I love the mouthwatering, traditional ham flavor, which makes it my year-round favorite, not just around the holidays.

I always have ham in my freezer, and I had to learn the safest and easiest ways to thaw it without compromising quality.

Through years of experimenting and following USDA’s guidelines for thawing ham safely, I’ve finally narrowed it down to four safe and easy methods.

Let’s get into it.

Quick Summary

  • The safest way to defrost frozen ham is by refrigerator thawing.
  • It takes half an hour to thaw a pound of ham in cold water.
  • Thawing in a microwave is only used on small pieces of ham.

4 Ways to Thaw Frozen Ham

a pile of thawing frozen ham

You can safely thaw frozen ham in a fridge, cooler, cold water bath, or microwave.

1. In a Refrigerator

Although this is the best route to defrost a ham, you'll need to schedule time for it because it takes the longest. Follow these steps to thaw your ham in the fridge:

  1. Place the frozen ham in a container or tray that will stop the ham juices from spilling onto other items, and keep it in its original, sealed wrapper.
  2. Put the frozen ham in the refrigerator, ensuring the temperature is below 40°F.
  3. You must allow 4 to 6 hours per pound to thaw your ham in the refrigerator [1]. So 5 pounds would take 24 hours, 10 pounds 2 full days, 15 pounds 3 days, and so on.

The benefit of thawing ham in the fridge is that you can safely refreeze a defrosted ham wrapped within 3 to 5 days, but there might be some quality loss if you decide not to cook the ham at all [2].

Also Read: How Long Will Ham Last in the Refrigerator

2. In Cold Water

Your frozen ham will thaw much more quickly in cold water.

Yet, the process will demand far more attention than when you thaw a ham in a refrigerator.

Here's how:

  1. Place the frozen ham in a large plastic bag or box that won't leak.
  2. Use cold tap water to thaw your ham; avoid using warm or hot water, as this might cause the meat's outer layer to warm up to a temperature where dangerous bacteria can start to grow.
  3. After 30 minutes, change the water to ensure it stays cold enough.
  4. Using this thawing approach, one pound of uncooked ham thaws for roughly half an hour, 5 pounds for 2.5 hours, 10 pounds for 5 hours, and 15 pounds for 7.5 hours.

The ham must be cooked immediately; it has thawed fully if you defrosted it using the cold water method.

Refreezing defrosted raw ham in cold water is not advised.

The ham can, however, be refrozen after cooking if you so choose.

"Bacteria from the air or the surroundings could contaminate the food if the bag leaks. The meat tissue may soak water, producing a watery product."
- United States Department of Agriculture 

3.In a Cooler

a picture of a frozen ham in refrigerator

If your refrigerator isn't big enough, you can thaw ham in a cooler using these steps:

  1. Fill the cooler with cold tap water.
  2. Submerge ham in the water and seal the cover.
  3. Keep an eye on the temperature inside the cooler; if it begins to climb to 40°F or higher, add ice packs to maintain the temperature between 35 and 40°F (1-4°C).
  4. To check the temperature, insert the probe end of a thermometer through the cooler's side. Set the alarm to ring when the temperature rises to 40°F, so you are informed to add some ice packs.

Read More: How to Thaw a Turkey in a Cooler

4. In a Microwave

You may thaw a frozen ham in the microwave if it is small enough and you need to get it done quickly. Read your product labels and the minutes per pound for information on the power level to use for thawing. Follow these simple steps:

  • Take off all exterior packaging.
  • Put on a microwave-safe dish to catch any juices that may leak.
  • Set time as per package label.
  • Cook ham immediately after it thaws if you microwave-defrost it.

4 Methods of Cooking Thawed Ham 

Cooking thawed ham

Consider these methods when cooking ham:

  • Grill: To cook indirectly on a charcoal or gas grill, place medium embers all around a drip pan. Place the ham on the grill rack above the pan, close the lid, and cook until the internal temperature reaches 140°F [3]. You can brush the ham with the preferred glaze once or twice in the last few minutes of cooking. Before slicing, wrap the surface with foil and give it 15 minutes to rest. (At this time, the temperature will increase by 5°F.)
  • Oven: Place the ham on a rack in the oven in a shallow roasting pan. Put a thermometer that may be used in an oven inside the ham (away from the bone). Roast in the preheated oven without a cover until the ham reaches the appropriate internal temperature.
  • Pressure cooker: The benefit of pressure cookers is that you may combine all your ingredients at once and still produce a tasty meal. Place your ham, cut side down, in the pressure cooker with the rest of the ingredients for your dish. Cook for 30 to 35 minutes at high pressure.
  • Slow cooker: For a slow cooker, pick a boneless ham that weighs about 5 pounds, glaze it, and cook it covered over low heat for 8 to 9 hours.

Storing Thawed Ham


Ham storage is an essential step in the defrosting process.

You can keep ham for a few days in the refrigerator at 40°F.

Keep leftover ham in the cooler's back section so it can reach the ideal temperature.

I recommend freezing your ham if you won't use it immediately to avoid spoiling.

Moreover, freezing may alter the product's quality and flavor while preventing spoilage.

I prefer double wrapping my freezer ham so it doesn't dry after storing it in the freezer.

If the original package is damaged, place the ham in a freezer-friendly sealable bag before placing it in the freezer.

Related Articles:


Can I Refreeze Thawed Ham?

You can refreeze thawed ham if it has been thawed in the fridge. Always make sure to cook ham thawed in the microwave or cold water before refreezing.

How Can I Thaw Ham Fast?

You can thaw ham fast through the cold water process. It takes 30 minutes to thaw a pound of ham this way.

Can I Cook Ham without Thawing?

According to the USDA, you can cook ham without thawing, but cooking it thoroughly will take longer than thawed ham.


Was this article helpful?

About the author

Gabriel Woods
Chef/Food Editor
Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management, Major in Culinary Entrepreneurship Summa Cum Laude. With a deep passion for the culinary arts and a keen business acumen, Gabrielle is set to embark on a journey that promises to leave a lasting impact on the world of the culinary industry. Growing up in a family where food created memories and bonds, she sustained an interest in cooking and baking. She earned her Culinary Entrepreneurship degree with a summa cum laude distinction from the University of Santo Tomas in the Philippines. Gabrielle then served as an assistant private chef – she helped clients achieve specific fitness goals by prepping protein-based meals and healthy side dishes. At Carnivore Style, Gabrielle has honed her strategic leadership by analyzing the trends in meat consumption preferences. This guides our team in producing engaging content, such as recipes featuring popular cuts or cooking techniques. She envisions a community where individuals follow their culinary dreams, making every delectable dish with love and soul for people to relish. In her free time, Gabrielle loves to travel to new places, study their culture, and dine at diverse restaurants and cafes.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *