How to Freeze Ham to Make It Last

published Apr 7, 2023
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how to freeze ham
Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Ah, the traditional spiral-cut, holiday ham — a perennial favorite for feeding a crowd at Easter, Christmas, or other special occasions. But if you’ve ever hosted a whole-ham meal, you know that no matter how hungry your guests are, you may still be left with a significant haul of leftover meat. 

While there are plenty of easy leftover ham recipes to make use of the full cut, you may want to freeze your ham in smaller portions so that you can make one dish at a time (and on your own time!). Read on for everything you need to know about extending your ham feast far after the holidays!

Does Ham Freeze Well?

Yes! Ham freezes well and can last weeks after it’s prepared. According to USDA food safety guidelines, cooked spiral ham will last 1 to 2 months in the freezer when packaged properly. 

How to Freeze Leftover Cooked Ham

  1. Most spiral-cut ham is pre-cooked, allowing you the freedom to either enjoy the ham straight out of the package or reheat before your meal. If you reheated your ham, make sure to let the meat cool fully before packing it up to freeze. 
  2. After your ham is cooled, cut the meat off of the bone into smaller portions to use in future recipes. Many recipes call for between 8 to 12 ounces, though you can choose to portion your leftover ham as you’d like. We recommend cutting your ham into cubes to use in soups and salads, thinly slicing the meat if you plan to make sandwiches, or using thicker slices for cooking with vegetables. 
  3. Tightly wrap each individual portion in plastic wrap, carefully ensuring that there are no gaps to prevent freezer burn. 
  4. Place your plastic-wrapped ham in an airtight, vacuum seal bag (here’s where to get the best vacuum sealer), or DIY a vacuum seal using resealable plastic bags. Label your bags with the date and measurement of your portion for easy re-use in future recipes.
  5. Save the bone! You can also tightly wrap and vacuum seal your ham bone for later use in Ham Bone, Greens, and Bean Soup or Slow-Cooker Ham Bone Soup
  6. Store in your freezer! 

How to Defrost Frozen Ham

According to USDA guidelines, there are three safe and reliable ways to thaw frozen ham: 

Thaw in the Refrigerator: The USDA recommends thawing your ham in the refrigerator as the easiest, slow-and-safe method  — it should take about 4 to 6 hours per pound to fully defrost.

Thaw in Cold Water: If you’re using the cold water method, make sure that your ham is still in a leak-proof, airtight bag before submerging in a bowl of cold tap water. Replace the water with fresh cold water every 30 minutes. The ham should take approximately 30 minutes per pound to defrost. Per the USDA, cook or heat the ham immediately after it is defrosted.

Thaw in the Microwave: If you’re short on time, you can defrost ham in the microwave, though this isn’t the most ideal method. If you’re defrosting ham slices in the microwave, defrost in 30-second intervals until your ham is thawed. If you’re defrosting a small whole frozen ham, place it unwrapped on a plate and warm it on the defrost setting — the time will depend on the weight of the ham. Many microwaves can determine a time for defrosting once you enter the weight of the ham.

Remember, ham and other perishable foods should never be thawed on a counter at room temperature. Make sure to use your ham immediately after thawing, and have a happy leftover ham holiday!

Our Favorite Leftover Ham Recipes: