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Can You Refreeze Ham After Baking It?

Baked glazed ham in Dutch oven ready to carve and serve.
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Staring at a mountain of leftover ham from your big holiday meal and wondering “Can you refreeze ham after baking it” to enjoy later? The answer is yes, but there are a few considerations. Read on for details.

Baked glazed ham in Dutch oven shown with roasted asparagus, roasted rosemary potatoes and roasted rainbow carrots.

Baking a whole or spiral glazed ham for the holidays is super popular and a real crowd-pleaser. And, it pairs so well with your favorite side dishes like mashed or roasted potatoes, roasted vegetables and sautéed greens.

Ham is a great “hands off” entrée to cook as it is, more or less, a set-it-and-forget-it cooking process (until the end when you need to apply glaze). Since hams are sold cured or smoked AND fully cooked, all you really need to do is heat them up.

Often, we’ll buy frozen hams from the supermarket that we will defrost in the fridge a couple days before baking and serving. This begs the question–is it okay to freeze the leftovers of a baked ham if the ham was frozen before cooking it?

The answer is yes.

However, there are lots of things to consider during this process. The following guidelines will keep your meat game strong.

Baked ham on platter with accoutrements.

Considerations & Best Practices for Freezing & Refreezing Ham

For a great baked ham recipe, check out this delicious and easy spiral baked ham with Sicilian Marsala wine glaze.

Now that you’ve made your ham, here are the guidelines for freezing its leftovers:

The First Thaw/Defrost

  • It’s safe to refreeze cooked ham as long as it was thawed in the refrigerator, which is considered a “safe” method of thawing.
  • You can also refreeze ham that you defrosted in the refrigerator but never cooked for some reason.

Do You Need to Freeze?

  • Leftovers of cooked, cured ham will generally last up to a week in the refrigerator if stored in an airtight container or bag.
  • If you don’t think that you’ll use all the leftovers during this timeframe, then you should definitely freeze them!

Timing

  • As far as food safety is concerned, both previously-frozen, cooked and never-cooked whole ham should be refrozen within 3 days of thawing. This timeframe ensures the ham maintains its quality and safety. Delaying beyond three days might lead to moisture loss, undesirable odor changes or bacteria growth.
  • You shouldn’t refreeze ham that’s been outside of refrigeration for more than two hours. Leaving cooked ham out at room temperature for extended periods can encourage the growth of harmful bacteria.
  • For the best quality, freeze ham leftovers for up to two months.

Your Freezer

  • According to the USDA, your freezer should be set to maintain a temperature of 0°F.
  • In fact, the colder, the better because the best way to keep ice crystals small is by freezing quickly at very low temperatures. An optimal freezer temperature prevents bacterial growth and minimizes the formation of dreaded freezer burn–locking in texture and taste!
  • Also, try to minimize the air space around your ham packages. Air is the enemy when it comes to freezer burn, so make sure the ham is snug and well-protected.
  • Finally, put the ham in the deepest part of your freezer and try to leave your freezer unopened for at least 3 hours after storing the ham.
Can you refreeze ham that has been already baked? Photo of leftover ham being sliced for packaging in freezer.
Can you refreeze ham that has been already baked? Photo of leftover ham being diced for packaging in freezer.

Prep and Portion the Leftovers

  • First, make sure the ham is cooled by refrigerating it for a few hours.
  • Then, use a paper towel to remove any excess moisture from the surface of the ham and ensure it’s dry (to prevent ice crystals.)
  • Dividing the ham leftovers into more manageable portions before freezing is a great, convenient idea if you have a lot to freeze. It’s much easier to grab what you need from the freezer rather than having a large serving of ham on your hands all over again. I suggest portioning them into 1 or 2 cup packages (either in slices or diced) for use in future sandwiches, soups or other recipes.

Packaging Ham for Freezing

The meat should be packaged properly so that it does not get freezer-burned or compromised in other ways.

  • First, wrap the ham leftovers tightly in plastic wrap.
  • Then, place the wrapped leftovers in either:
    • a sealable freezer bag (with as much extra air as possible squeezed out) and sealed tightly; or
    • an airtight container with lid sealed tightly; or
    • tightly wrapped in foil.
  • If you have a vacuum-seal machine, definitely use it to package the leftovers.

Freezer air exposure can lead to freezer burn and render the leftovers inedible. Tightly packaged meat will help to maintain the ham’s moisture, taste and texture and minimize dryness. Good storage is everything!

Label and Date

  • Be sure to label and date your ham (and all leftovers) before you put it in the freezer so that you don’t lose track of it.
  • Use a blank sticker, masking tape or write directly on a freezer bag with a permanent marker.
Baked glazed ham in Dutch oven ready to carve and serve.

Thawing Frozen Ham

  • The best way to defrost for both safety and flavor is gradually in the refrigerator. The length of time will vary based on how big the leftover packages are.
  • If you’re defrosting a whole, vacuum-packed, precooked ham, it will likely take anywhere two to three days to fully defrost in the refrigerator. Once thawed, ham will last in the fridge for three to four days.
  • A second, quicker option is cold water thawing. Seal the frozen cooked ham in a leak-proof plastic bag and submerge it in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes to maintain its chill. This method accelerates thawing while ensuring safety.
  • I am not a big fan of using the microwave to defrost, but that is a third option. Follow thawing direction for your specific oven and keep a close eye on it so that it does not begin to cook. This can be a real time-saver, especially when you’re juggling a busy schedule and forgot to take the food out of the freezer early enough.
  • Never defrost at room temperature. While it might seem convenient, it opens the door to bacterial growth.

Note that if you’re using the frozen leftovers in a dish that will be heated, such as a soup or casserole, you generally don’t even have to thaw it first.

Reheating Leftovers After Thawing

  • To reheat ham leftovers without drying them out, place them in a small pan with a little water.
  • Cover and heat slowly on medium low until heated through. The meat should reabsorb some of the liquid to make up for what was lost in the freeze cycle.
Slicing ham on cutting board next to Dutch oven.

Potential Quality Change

Refreezing may result in some compromise to the texture and taste of the ham.

Moisture is generally lost during the freezing process. Also, freezing creates ice crystals and, when the ham thaws, these ice crystals may cause the cell walls of the meat to break down slightly, potentially affecting texture. Refreezing repeats the process and may cause the meat to be drier. However, this is often minimal and may not be noticeable.

Having said this, proper packaging, storage, thawing and reheating, as laid out above, goes a long way and can minimize most texture or flavor changes from freezing and refreezing.

Quality Matters!

The higher the quality of ham, the better it freezes. If you’re dealing with a premium ham, it’s more likely to maintain its texture and flavor during freezing than lower-grade cuts. A great reason to have a good butcher who can advise you!

Avoid labels that read “water added” or mention containing “water product”. Hams without water added will maintain the original texture better after thawing. Freezing ham that contains water can produce ice crystals which results in a more lacy texture in the ham when thawed.

Don’t Forget the Ham Bone!

When freezing ham leftovers, don’t forget to freeze the super-flavorful, meaty ham bone for future use in soups and broths. Ham bone broth is like liquid gold, adding a rich and savory depth to soups and stews, such as Split Pea Soup, that can’t be beat.

Carving baked ham on cutting board.
Can you refreeze ham that has been already baked? Photo of leftover ham bone on plate.

How to Use Ham Leftovers

The options are endless! Once you have properly thawed ham, there are so many great leftover ham recipes out there. I love turning them into a hearty and nutritious split pea soup with potatoes or a simple baguette sandwich with brie, adding them to grilled cheese or pastas, making a ham and cheese frittata, or even using them for bread pudding.

Before freezing your ham leftovers, consider using them in recipes/finished meals that you can freeze for later, like soups, quiche or casseroles. When you’re short on time, having ready-made meals that you can pull out and reheat is the best.

Split Pea and Ham Soup with Potatoes in decorative bowl topped with toast croutons.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does Ham Last in the Freezer?

Technically, freezing ham will keep it safe indefinitely, but it might not taste so good after years of sitting in the freezer. The USDA provides a Ham Storage Chart here that covers different types and cuts of ham. They note that “Freezer storage is for quality only. Frozen hams remain safe indefinitely.”

Generally, fully cooked ham and ham leftovers can be frozen and still maintain their quality for up to two months.
 
For more information on how to safely store and cook ham or other types of meat, click here.

Can I cook a frozen ham without thawing it?

Yes. You can put a frozen ham directly into the oven if you don’t have time to defrost it. Plan to cook it about 50% longer than a fully defrosted ham to reach the required 140°F internal temperature

Can Deli Ham Be Frozen?

Yes. According to the USDA, “packaged lunch meats (including ham) can be stored in the refrigerator for two weeks before opening. After opening a package of lunch meats or buying sliced lunch meats at a deli,you can refrigerate them for three to five days. These meats can also be frozen for one to two months for the best quality.”


Ham sandwich using leftover ham on cutting board.

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Baked glazed ham in Dutch oven ready to carve and serve.
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5 from 2 votes

Can You Refreeze Ham After Baking It?

Staring at a mountain of leftover ham from your big holiday meal and wondering “Can you refreeze ham after baking it” to enjoy later? The answer is yes, but there are a few considerations.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian, American
Author: Michele

Instructions

  • The First Thaw/Defrost
    It's safe to refreeze cooked ham as long as it was thawed in the refrigerator, which is considered a “safe” method of thawing.
    You can also refreeze ham that you defrosted in therefrigerator but never cooked for some reason.
  • Do You Need to Freeze?
    Leftovers of cooked, cured ham will generally last up to a week in the refrigerator if stored in an airtight container or bag.
    If you don’t think that you’ll use all the leftovers during this timeframe, then you should definitely freeze them!
  • Timing
    As far as food safety is concerned, both previously-frozen, cooked and never-cooked ham should be refrozen within 3 days of thawing. This timeframe ensures the ham maintains its quality and safety. Delaying beyond 3 days might lead to moisture loss, undesirable odor changes or bacteria growth.
    You shouldn’t refreeze ham that’s been outside of refrigeration for more than two hours. Leaving cooked ham out at room temperature for extended periods can encourage the growth of harmful bacteria.
    For the best quality, freeze ham leftovers for up to two months.
  • Your Freezer
    Your freezer should be set to maintain a temperature of 0℉.
    In fact, the colder, the better because the best way to keep ice crystals small is by freezing quickly at very low temperatures. An optimal freezer temperature prevents bacterial growth and minimizes the formation of dreaded freezer burn–locking in texture and taste!
    Also, try to minimize the air space around your ham packages. Air is the enemy when it comes to freezer burn, so make sure the ham is snug and well-protected.
    Finally, put the ham in the deepest part of your freezer and try to leave your freezer unopened for at least 3 hours after storing the ham.
  • Prep and Portion the Leftovers
    First, make sure the ham is cooled by just refrigerating it for a few hours.
    Then, use a paper towel to remove any excess moisture from the surface of the ham and ensure it’s dry (to prevent ice crystals.)
    Dividing the ham leftovers into more manageable portions before freezing is a great, convenient idea if you have a lot to freeze. It’s much easier to grab what you need from the freezer rather than having a large serving of ham on your hands all over again. I suggest portioning them into 1 or 2 cup packages (either in slices or diced) for use in future sandwiches, soups or other recipes.
  • Packaging Ham for Freezing
    The meat should be packaged properly so that it does not get freezer-burned or compromised in other ways.
    First, wrap the ham leftovers tightly in plastic wrap.
    Then, place the wrapped leftovers in either a sealable freezer bag (with as much extra air as possible squeezed out) and sealed tightly, or an airtight container with lid sealed tightly, or tightly wrapped in foil.
    If you have a vacuum-seal machine, definitely use it to package the leftovers.
    Freezer air exposure can lead to freezer burn and render the leftovers inedible. Tightly packaged meat will help to maintain the ham’s moisture, taste and texture and minimize dryness. Good storage is everything!
  • Label and Date
    Be sure to label and date your ham (and all leftovers) before you put it in the freezer so that you don't lose track of it.
    Use a blank sticker, masking tape or write directly on a freezer bag with a permanent marker.
  • Thawing Frozen Ham
    The best way to defrost for both safety and flavor is gradually in the refrigerator. The length of time will vary based on how big the leftover packages are.
    If you are defrosting a whole, vacuum-packed, precooked ham, it will likely take anywhere 2 to 3 days to fully defrost in the refrigerator. Once thawed, ham will last in the fridge for three to four days.
    A second, quicker option is cold water thawing. Seal the frozen cooked ham in a leak-proof plastic bag and submerge it in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes to maintain its chill. This method accelerates thawing while ensuring safety.
    I am not a big fan of using the microwave to defrost, but that is a third option. Follow thawing direction for your specific oven and keep a close eye on it so that it does not begin to cook. This can be a real time-saver, especially when you’re juggling a busy schedule and forgot to take the food out of the freezer early enough.
    Never defrost at room temperature. While it might seem convenient, it opens the door to bacterial growth.
    Note that if you’re using the frozen leftovers in a dish that will be heated, such as a soup or casserole, you generally don't even have to thaw it first.
  • Reheating Leftovers After Thawing
    To reheat ham leftovers without drying them out, place them in a small pan with a little water.
    Cover and heat slowly on medium low until heated through. The meat should reabsorb some of the liquid to make up for what was lost in the freeze cycle.

Notes

Potential Quality Changes
Refreezing may result in some compromise to the texture and taste of the ham.
Moisture is generally lost during the freezing process. Also, freezing creates ice crystals and, when the ham thaws, these ice crystals may cause the cell walls of the meat to break down slightly, potentially affecting texture. Refreezing repeats the process and may cause the meat to be drier. However, this is often minimal and may not be noticeable.
Having said this, proper packaging, storage, thawing and reheating, as laid out above, goes a long way and can minimize most texture or flavor changes from freezing and refreezing.
Quality Matters!
The higher the quality of ham, the better it freezes. If you’re dealing with a premium ham, it’s more likely to maintain its texture and flavor during freezing than lower-grade cuts. A great reason to have a good butcher!
Avoid labels that read “water added” or mention containing “water product”. Hams without water added will maintain the original texture better after thawing. Freezing ham that contains water can produce ice crystals which results in a more lacy texture in the ham when thawed.
Don’t Forget the Ham Bone!
When freezing ham leftovers, don’t forget to freeze the super-flavorful, meaty ham bone for future use in soups and broths. Ham bone broth is like liquid gold, adding a rich and savory depth to soups and stews, such as Split Pea Soup, that can’t be beaten.
 
 
Recipe by Mangia With Michele. Please visit my site for more great cooking inspiration!
If you try this recipe, please share a photo on INSTAGRAM or FACEBOOK and tag it @MangiaWithMichele and #MangiaWithMichele. I’d love to see it!

2 thoughts on “Can You Refreeze Ham After Baking It?

  1. 5 stars
    Excellent recipe. I used apple juice instead of orange juice and it came out perfectly

  2. 5 stars
    Thanks for these great tips! It was very thorough.

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