Ham is an essential ingredient in many meals.
There’s no worse pain than starting to cook a chowder or ham and pineapple pizza and realizing:
“I have no idea how old this packet of ham is!”
Here’s the kicker: it’s super easy to tell if your ham has gone bad, and there are a handful of nifty methods to keeping your ham fresher for longer.
The verdict for those of you in a hurry:
If your ham isn’t slimy, dull, or exuding a sour smell, then you’re probably good to cook with it.
How Do I Tell If My Ham Has Gone Bad?
If you’ve already opened the packet of ham and can’t spot anything immediately wrong with it, you’re probably fine, as ham exhibits obvious signs of decay:
- Discoloration: When the pink meat starts to turn grey.
- Smell: If your ham is potent with a sour odor, then it’s time to bin it!
- Texture: Give your ham a poke. If it’s slimy, the ham is already spoiled.
How To Store Ham
Ideally, you want to store your ham in a cool, dark, dry place, around 40°F (or 4°C). Think fridge or freezer.
And that plastic that your ham comes in? Throw it out!
Opting to wrap your ham keeps it from drying out. A damp-tea towel will do your ham wonders!
For storing sliced ham, place a piece of paper towel in the bottom of an airtight plastic container.
Remember, in the fridge, ham will only last 3-5 days. If you’re looking for long-term preservation of your ham, your best bet is to put it in the freezer. This way, your ham can last from 1-6 months!
However, your storage method depends on the type of ham, which we’ll cover below. If you’re ever in doubt, you can’t go wrong by simply putting your ham in the fridge in an airtight container or wrapped in a damp towel.
Types Of Ham
You might be wondering: what’s the correlation between the type of ham and how it’s stored?
The truth is different types of ham have longer or shorter expiration, and this can affect how you want to store it.
While these minor differences in how long your ham lasts could seem insignificant, they can actually prove to be very useful when deciding whether to put your ham in the freezer or fridge.
For example, fresh, uncured, and uncooked ham can last from 3-5 days in the fridge and up to 6 months in the freezer.
Fresh, uncured, but cooked ham, however, can last from 3-4 days in the fridge and only 3-4 months in the freezer.
Some hams, such as cured, cooked-before-eating, or uncooked ham, usually last from 5-7 days in the fridge and can keep from 3-4 months in the freezer.
Lastly, fully cooked, vacuum-sealed, unopened ham lasts until the expiration date in the fridge but survives a meager 1-2 months in the freezer in comparison to the other hams.
Don’t forget to always check the expiration or best-before date on the packet of ham. After all, there’s always a chance the ham has been sitting on the shelf for days prior to you picking it up.
The Verdict: Does Ham Go Bad?
Ham, like any other perishable food item, does go bad. However, in the right conditions, it can last for up to 6 months in the freezer and 5-7 days in a fridge.
Plus, if you can’t see any visible defects and it smells fine, the ham is probably safe to use.