Sliced ham left at room temperature can last 2 – 3 hours before bacteria starts to grow on them. You can extend its shelf life by storing it in a refrigerator or a freezer.
If stored with its original package in a refrigerator, ham can last up till the expiry date. But if already opened, it can last up to 5 – 7 days. It can last up to a year if stored properly in a freezer.
Ham, just like bacon, is cured meat prepared from the hind thighs of a pig. The rear of the pig is thick and flavorful, and it is the curing process that makes a ham.
Well, do you want to know how long a ham is good for? Or how to effectively store them to extend their shelf life? Then read on.
What is ham?
Ham is meat gotten from the upper part of a pig’s leg. It is delicious salty meat used for a variety of dishes, and it is a favorite for sandwiches, holiday celebrations, and dinner parties.
There are different ways to cook ham; it can be slow-cooked, roasted, baked, or boiled. When ham goes bad, it can cause food poisoning, which is why one must know how to store it and how to tell when it has expired.
Types of ham
Before determining how long ham lasts, you need to determine what kind of ham it is first. As different types of ham have different shelf-life.
1. Fresh ham
As indicated by the name, fresh ham is neither cured nor smoked, and it tends to be pale pink. Once cooked, it tastes pretty similar to pork roast.
2. Dry-cured ham
Also known as country hams, they are cured without any injections of water. Instead, a combination of salt, sugar, phosphates, and spices such as; black pepper and pickling spice is used to preserve the meat.
Typically, this type of ham is hung to dry for months, and this process allows the meat to dehydrate even further. Dry-cured ham has an intense and robust flavor, this is because the curing process draws out its moisture.
3. Wet-cured ham
As opposed to dry cured hams, this type is cured in a brining solution. Which consists of liquid smoke, sugar, salt, honey, spices, nitrites, as well as other flavorings.
Since it only takes a few days to make the wet cured hams, they are mass-produced and easiest to get. Compared to dry-cured hams, The wet-cured flavor might not be as robust, but they can be mildly sweet in flavor.
4. Smoked ham
Before being smoked, all hams undergo the curing process, whether wet or dry. Smoked hams are more intense in colors and flavors compared to unsmoked ones. To smoke hams, you will need hardwoods such as hickory or red oak.
Smoking somewhat cures the ham further as it dries any excess moisture from the meat and sterilizes its surface. As a result, smoked hams can last slightly longer than fresh or cured hams.
How long does sliced ham last in the fridge and freezer?
1. In the fridge
They can last from 5 – 7 days or until their expiration date. It should be kept in its original packaging so that it can last longer. This means you should only open the ham when you’re about to eat it.
2. In the freezer
Ham can last up to 8 – 12 months in a freezer. It should also be kept either in its original package or wrapped in aluminum foil and placed inside the freezer.
How to tell if the ham has gone bad?
1. The smell
The smell is the first step in identifying spoilt or expired ham. If you get a sulfur-like smell from it, then it is probably bad. You are supposed to get a natural smoky smell from ham.
2. Change in color
Ham has a pale pinkish color, even after being cooked. If you notice a green, grey, green, or any other odd color, then it is probably spoilt and should be thrown away.
3. Growth of mold
Mold can promote bacteria which, when eaten, can expose you to food-related illnesses. It is never a good sign to see mold on your meat. If you notice any on your ham, it’s best to assume it has gone bad.
4. The texture
If ham is fresh, you should get a firm and moist texture. If it is bad, you are likely to get a slimy and sticky texture from it.
5. The expiry date
This should be one of the first things you look out for. Once you purchase packaged or canned hams, you should access the expiry date to be on the safe side.
How can you store your ham properly?
Ham should be stored so that they are kept out of the temperature zone in which bacteria grows quickly. The dangerous temperature zone is a range between 40°F and 140°F.
Fresh ham and cured ham may be stored in a refrigerator for several days. If it is not going to be used within the recommended time, you should freeze it to prevent it from spoiling.
Leftover ham should be wrapped properly and refrigerated as soon as possible. Do not leave the ham at room temperature for more than two hours so that mold does not start growing. If you are not going to use the ham within four days of cooking, it should be frozen.
- Be sure you maintain the proper temperature of the refrigerator by using a proper temperature thermometer.
- Divide the leftover into different section and allow them chill faster. This will help reduce or shorten the time that the ham is in the danger zone between 40°F and 140°F.
- The USDA recommends that you throw out ham if you question its safety. Especially if you are not sure if the ham was refrigerated for the maximum suggested time.
- Use a moisture-proof wrap or aluminum when freezing the ham. Avoid using wax paper as they are not moisture-proof and should not be used to wrap ham. This is because the wax paper would not hold the moisture in the meat.
- Freeze ham as soon as it cools to maintain the best quality.
- Do not try freezing canned ham. They are not a shelf-stable item, simply take the ha out of the can, wrap it tightly with aluminum foil, and then place it in the freezer.
- If there are bones in the ham that could poke through the wrapping, protect it with aluminum foil or plastic wrap before wrapping the entire piece of ham.
How can you use leftover ham?
You can fry them with eggs for breakfast.
What happens when you eat expired ham?
It can cause food poisoning or other food-related illnesses, such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.
Does freezing ham change its taste?
No, it doesn’t. Freezing is an excellent method of preserving both the flavor and texture of your ham.
Conclusion: How long does sliced ham last?
Ham can last up to 5 – 7 days in the refrigerator and up to 8 -12 months in a freezer. If opened, it can last only 2- 3 hours at room temperature before mold or bacteria starts growing on them.
To extend the shelf-life of your ham, you should follow the storage tips on how to store them properly. You should also know how to identify spoilt ham, as it can be harmful to your health.
I hope you enjoyed this article, if you did, you should also see what happens if you eat bad ham.
Thank you for reading this article.