Ham is delicious salty meat used for a variety of dishes. It is a favorite for sandwiches, holiday celebrations, and dinner parties.
There are many 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 it’s important to know how to store it and how to tell when it has expired.
Does Ham Go Bad?
Yes, like any other meat, the ham will eventually go bad. The right storage is very important when it comes to keeping ham fresh.
You can’t keep it at room temperature, you will need to put it in the fridge as soon as you arrive home. This is true for both fresh and processed ham.
How Long Does Ham Last?
According to eatbydate.com when ham is stored properly, you can expect it to last:
6 – 8 months
3 Tips to Tell if Ham has Gone Bad
Whether fresh or cooked, rotten ham is a ‘dead’ give away. When the ham has gone bad, it changes color, stinks, and goes moldy. When ham first starts going bad, it’s not too obvious, it might have a slight smell, but you are not sure. Experts advise that if you think ham has gone off, don’t take the risk, just bin it.
Additionally, never do a taste test if you suspect your ham has expired. The main reason for not performing a taste test is you don’t want to risk getting a more severe form of food poisonings such as salmonella or E. coli.
Whether you think your ham has expired or not, it’s always best to check before cooking it. Open the bag and smell the ham, it should have a fresh salty smell. Smoked ham should smell smoky. Here are three tips to tell if the ham has gone bad:
Mold is either green, white, or a mixture of green and white. It will appear on the surface of the ham as spots or a fuzzy fir like texture. When you see mold, throw the ham away immediately.
Not only is mold a clear indication that the ham is rotten; mold creates a poisonous compound called mycotoxins which is what causes food poisoning.
Additionally, it can cause respiratory issues in people who are allergic to mold. This is why you must seal the ham in a bag and throw it in the trash immediately when mold is discovered. This will prevent the mold spores from going airborne and making people ill.
One of the most obvious ways to detect whether ham is expired is the smell. As mentioned, depending on the type, ham will either smell salty or smoky, if there is a rotten smell coming from the ham, it has expired.
Ham has a pink rosy color, even when the ham is fully cooked, it maintains the same color. Uncured ham is still pink but it’s very pale, almost beige. When a ham starts turning green, black, brown, or gray, it’s a sure sign that the ham has gone bad.
Fresh ham should be slightly moist and firm, if it has become sticky or slimy, it has most probably become contaminated with a type of microbe and should be thrown in the trash immediately.
4 Tips to Store Ham for Longer
When you go shopping, ham is the last item you should buy; ham is taken out of a cold temperature, so you want to get home as quickly as possible and refrigerate it to keep it fresh. There are different ways to store ham, here are four of them:
In the Fridge
The fridge should be set at 40 degrees or less. The ideal temperature for your fridge is 34-38 degrees F. You can keep a whole ham in the fridge for up to one week before cooking it.
In a Cooler
If there is no space in the fridge, you can store the ham in a cooler, just pack it with ice, but the ice will melt, so you will need to keep changing the ice to make sure the ham stays fresh.
Also, it’s a good idea to put a thermometer inside the cooler. An alarmed thermometer will ensure you are notified when the cooler drops below 40 degrees F. Additionally, don’t store raw and cooked meat together as this can lead to a transfer of bad bacteria.
If you eat ham often, it’s a good idea to stock up especially if the ham is on sale. Keep the ham in its original packaging and use it within 8 months.
There is no harm in keeping it for longer, but it won’t be as fresh, you will find that it starts absorbing other flavors in the fridge, gets dried out, and gets freezer burnt.
Your freezer should be set at zero degrees F. At this temperature, the freezer will preserve your ham for the recommended time. To thaw ham after freezing, follow the directions set out above.
If you’ve got some leftover cooked ham, you can store it in the fridge. However, you should not leave it in room temperature conditions for more than 2 hours.
Some foods need to cool down completely before they are put in the fridge, this is not the case with ham. Either put the ham in an airtight container, or wrap it tightly with an airtight bag, foil, or plastic wrap before placing it in the fridge.
The Risk of Consuming Expired Ham
There are some foods you can get away with eating after the sell by date, but not meat. Pathogenic bacteria such as E. coli, clostridium, staphylococcus, and salmonella can cause severe food poisoning.
According to the Mayo clinic, food poisoning can cause symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, fever, nausea, and abdominal pain.
In most cases, bed rest, drinking plenty of water, and over the counter medication will get rid of food poisoning. But if these symptoms persist for more than three days, it is advised that you book an appointment with your doctor.
Can you freeze ham?
Yes, you can freeze ham, and as mentioned above, you can expect it to remain fresh for 6-8 months.
You will need to store the ham in an airtight container or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, foil, or an airtight bag before putting ham in the freezer.
When you are ready to cook the ham, you will need to thaw it, there are three ways you can do this:
In the Fridge
This is the safest way to thaw ham, but it takes quite some time. For the thawing process, the temperature in the fridge should be set between 34-38 degrees F.
At this temperature, it is cold enough to make sure that there is no overgrowth of bacteria, but warm enough to melt the ham.
Put the ham into a pan so that all the water is caught while it’s thawing. Place the ham at the bottom of the fridge so that it doesn’t mix with any other foods in the fridge.
In a Cooler
If there is no space in your fridge, a cooler will once again come in handy. Put the cooler in a cool location and use a thermometer to ensure that the temperature stays between 35-40 degrees F.
You can add ice packs to keep the temperature constant. Use an alarmed thermometer to notify you when the temperature goes above 40 degrees.
In case you leave your ham in the freezer for too long, you can thaw it in cold water. Obviously, hot water would thaw it quicker, but what it will also do is cause the outside of the ham to reach 40 degrees and above before the ham is thawed on the inside.
This is a recipe for disaster because uncooked ham over 40 degrees leads to an overgrowth of bad bacteria which can cause food poisoning.
To thaw the ham, wrap it up in an airtight bag, you don’t want the raw ham to come into contact with the water because once ham absorbs water, the texture and taste is altered.
There is also the risk of bacterial contamination. After wrapping the ham, put the plug in the sink and place the ham in it.
Fill the sink with cold water and change it every 30 minutes until the ham is thawed. Once the ham is thawed, cook it immediately and do not refreeze the ham if there are any leftovers.
In the Microwave
Thawing ham in the microwave should be the last resort especially if it’s a large piece of ham. The reason being is that like thawing it in hot water, the outside of the meat will heat up faster than the inside.
In case of an emergency and you do need to thaw your ham in the microwave, be sure to follow the defrost recommendations set out by the manufacturer of the microwave.
You don’t want any funny surprises when it comes to ham because food poisoning from meat is not something you want to experience.
Therefore, follow the guidelines set out in this article and make sure ham is stored in the right way. If there is even the slightest sign that it has gone bad, throw the ham in the trash.