Ham is one of those irresistible foods that we cannot help but keep in our freezer. After all, there is no wrong time to eat ham.
Although large hams are designed for the holidays, we can use deli meat to make sandwiches for lunches or picnics.
No one wants their ham to spoil, especially if you are in charge of cooking this year’s holiday dinner.
The only way to prevent your ham from spoiling is to know how long it lasts in the fridge.
Types of Ham
Before you head to the store, you need to decide what type of ham you are going to purchase.
Knowing the kind of ham will help you determine how long it will last in the fridge.
Fresh hams are fabricated from the rear leg. Fresh hams are not cured or smoked.
Fresh hams are pale pink in color and have a flavor that is reminiscent of pork roast.
Fresh hams are usually too much to consume in one sitting. Luckily you can freeze the ham once it’s cooked.
When a craving hits, you can quickly defrost the ham in the refrigerator overnight.
Also called country hams, dry-cured hams are also fabricated from the animal’s posterior leg.
Dry-cured hams are preserved without injecting the ham with water.
This type of ham is cured with a blend of sugar spices such as pickling spice, salt, and phosphates.
Like dry-aged steaks, dry-cured hams can be hung to dry for months or up to a full year. The drying phase allows the ham to dehydrate even more.
The result is a cured ham with a big, bold flavor.
As you can imagine, wet-cured hams are the opposite of dry-cured hams.
Wet-cured hams are preserved in a brining solution of nitrates, salt, liquid smoke, sugar, spices, and honey.
The hams must be cooked when they are immersed in the brining solution.
Unlike dry-cured hams, wet-cured hams only take a few days to make. Therefore, they are mass-produced and super easy to find.
The flavor of wet-cured ham is not as intense as its dry-cured counterparts. However, they are moist and have a subtle sweet flavor.
While you can smoke your own ham at home, you can also purchase smoked ham. Before the ham can be smoked, it must be wet or dry-cured.
Smoked hams have a richer color than non-smoked hams. They are usually smoked with hardwoods such as hickory or maple.
Smoking ham can cure the ham even more as excess moisture is pulled from the ham. Therefore, smoked hams last longer than fresh or cured hams.
How To Store Ham
How the ham is stored impacts its flavor as well as how long it will last in the fridge. If you do not store your ham correctly, it will spoil faster.
How To Store Ham in the Fridge
To store your ham in the fridge, get a large tea towel or purchase a new pillowcase that can cover the entire ham.
Combine 2 1/2 tablespoons of white vinegar with 4 cups of water.
Place the tea towel or pillowcase into the vinegar mixture until it is soaked.
Remove the tea towel or pillowcase and squeeze the moisture from it until it stops dripping.
Place the ham into the tea towel or pillowcase. Do not wrap it too tightly around the ham if you are using a tea towel.
The ham has to have enough room for air to circulate.
Make sure your fridge is at or below 40°F. Place the ham into the coldest section of the refrigerator.
The coldest section of the refrigerator is usually the back section.
Do not place the ham near ready-to-eat foods.
Any condensation released from the ham could contaminate other foods in your fridge.
Repeat these steps every 3 days to ensure the tea towel or pillowcase does not dry out.
Once you are ready to serve your ham, shave off the amount of ham you need, then cover it back up, and place it into the fridge.
Never leave your ham at room temperature for more than 2 hours. This will discourage the growth of bacteria.
How To Store Ham in the Freezer
There is some debate about whether ham can be frozen without compromising its texture and flavor.
However, hams can retain their texture and flavor as long as you freeze it the right way and use it in a timely manner.
Store the ham in the freezer as soon as you reach home if you do not intend to cook it. Remember, the quicker you freeze the ham, the better.
The ham can be left in its original packaging. But if the ham’s packaging has been compromised, wrap the ham tightly with plastic wrap or heavy-duty aluminum foil.
It may be best to double wrap the ham to ensure it doesn’t dry out.
Place the ham into a freezer-safe airtight container or ziplock bag if the ham is opened.
You can cut the ham into smaller pieces to make it easier to freeze.
Place the ham in the freezer’s bottom bin so it freezes as fast as possible.
In fact, it may be best to store the ham in a deep freezer instead of your refrigerator’s freezer.
Your fridge’s freezer may have an unstable temperature making the freezing process even longer.
How Long Does Ham Last in the Fridge
Ultimately, how the ham was processed and how you store it will impact how long it lasts in the fridge.
A whole cooked ham will last in the refrigerator for 5 days. However, if the ham is cured, it may only last for up to 3-4 days.
If you purchase a cooked ham, it will last up to a week in the fridge as long as it remains unopened.
You can lengthen the shelf life of ham by freezing it for 1-2 months.
Hams are so irresistible you can’t help but pick up one when it’s on sale.
However, before you add that ham to your grocery cart, you must know how long it lasts in the fridge.
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I have been smoking and grilling meat from an early age and enjoy sharing my knowledge and expertise through the hundreds of articles I have written about BBQ. I hope to make everyone’s BBQ journey that little bit easier.