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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!
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