Should You Freeze a Spiral Ham? (Expiration For Cured & Uncured)

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter meals all seem to have one common theme — ham is on the table! This sweet and smokey meat is a tasty and affordable option that comes in a variety of forms.

Smoked, honey glazed, honey baked, spiral sliced, bone-in and boneless, the list goes on and on.

For those wondering if you can freeze a spiral ham before cooking, we have the cure to your conundrum!

Spiral ham is a fully cooked piece of bone-in ham that has one continuous cut around the slab of meat, hence the name. You cannot purchase spiral ham in raw form.

The cutting process only occurs after the ham has been cooked. Thus, you will not be able to freeze spiral ham before cooking, but you can freeze it prior to reheating. 

The suitable storage time for a spiral cut ham is one to two months. First, remove the original wrapping (unless the meat comes vacuum wrapped). Then, apply a tight layer of freezer wrap, followed by a covering of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Then, place the ham in a freezer-safe ziplock bag.

Vacuum sealing is another alternative that can help preserve this delicious dish. Thawing will take three days in the fridge, but you have the option of heating it or eating it cold since it has been previously cooked.

Spiral Cut Ham — Always Cooked, Never Raw

Ham is the meat of the pig that is cut from the leg. This is a processed product that can be cured, smoked and baked. You can purchase it whole, sliced, or spiral cut.

It is important to remember that no matter what type of meat you buy if the butcher is slicing it, it is going to be cooked prior to purchase.

Thus, spiral cut ham is safe to eat the moment you buy it. Therefore, it cannot be frozen raw because they do not sell it in this state.

Spiral cut ham can be cured or uncured, smoked or baked, and glazed in a variety of ingredients.

However, it will always be cooked. It is important that you pay attention to the type of spiral ham you purchase so that you can

Guidelines For Freezing Cooked Spiral Ham

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “frozen hams remain safe indefinitely.”

However, just like any other food, freezer storage keeps it safe to eat, but this does not necessarily equate to good quality.

Long-term exposure to extremely cold temperatures will inevitably bring changes to the flavor, texture, and color of the meat.

Thus, food experts have put cold storage times in place to ensure that you get the most out of your meat!

Uncured & Cured Cooked Spiral Ham

In case you didn’t know,curing is the addition of salt, sodium or potassium nitrate (or saltpeter), nitrites, and sometimes sugar, seasonings, phosphates, and cure accelerators, e.g., sodium ascorbate, to pork for preservation, color development, and flavor enhancement.” Why is this an important thing to note? 

Salt is a fantastic tool for removing the worry of dangerous bacteria. However, it also dehydrates the meat and oxidizes the fat, causing the product to go rancid more quickly.

This is essentially the decomposition of the meat, which leads to changes in color, smell, and flavor.

It also makes the meat unsafe to eat. This will diminish the time in which you can safely store this product.

Therefore, spiral hams that are both cooked and cured will only last for one to two months in the freezer. This applies to both bone-in and boneless varieties.

Additionally, if you are cooking your spiral cut ham before you freeze it, the leftover slices will also follow the same time constraints. 

However, if your spiral cut ham is uncured, then it will last three to four months in cold storage, allowing you to have it on hand for longer!

How To Freeze Spiral Cut Ham Before Cooking A Second Time

If you plan on reheating your cooked spiral cut ham on a special occasion, it is a simple process to prepare the product to freeze.

For those lucky enough to purchase a spiral cut ham pre-vacuum sealed, do not remove the packaging!

Simply apply a layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil over the top of this plastic and label the meat with the current date. 

Spiral Ham

However, if this is not the case, here are the best methods for achieving optimal storage times.

Remember that no matter which method you choose, it is best to freeze the product upon purchase to ensure that the ham remains at peak freshness!

If you do not conduct this step, then just make sure that it is frozen prior to the ‘Best By’ date.

Method 1: Vacuum Seal The Meat

Spiral cut ham comes cooked and conveniently sliced. This gives you two options for storage using the vacuum seal method.

First, you can vacuum seal the entire ham and then follow the remainder of the aforementioned directions above. 

However, if your intent is to serve smaller quantities of this meat, you can also finish slicing your sections and divide out more manageable portions of this main course.

Then, vacuum seal those portions, again following the rest of the packaging instructions detailed above. 

This can help to limit food waste, without taking away from the quality of the meat. However, it will remove the picture-perfect table spread that many hope to see at Christmas dinner.

Thankfully, this is a fantastic method for those who plan to use the meat for ham and cheese sandwiches on a regular basis!

Method 2: Freezer Plastic Wrap 

The second method is to remove the cooked ham original packaging and apply a tight layer of freezer-safe plastic wrap to the cooked spiral cut ham. Follow this with a second tight wrap of heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Finally, depending on the size of the ham, place it in a freezer-safe ziplock bag. Remove as much air as possible and seal. Finally, label with the date and freeze. 

Method 3: Freezer Safe Ziplock Bag

The final method is for those who want to portion out their meat, but do not have access to a vacuum seal machine. First, slice the portions that you intend to package.

Then, slice them into a freezer-safe ziplock bag, removing as much of the air as possible.

Fold over any excess plastic and apply a second tight layer of aluminum foil. Label the package and freeze.

Freeze The Meat Properly

The faster you freeze the spiral cut ham, the better the meat will be in long-term cold storage.

Large ice crystals will form without this rapid temperature drop. This will lead to changes in texture and consistency when you go to eat it at a later date.

Thus, clear off a shelf in the freezer. Then make sure that the cooling vent and fan are not obstructed.

This will help facilitate the freezing process. Additionally, no matter which packaging method you choose, it is imperative that you freeze your spiral cut ham at a consistent zero degrees Fahrenheit.

How To Prepare Spiral Cut Ham — Serving Cold & Cooking 

Thaw The Spiral Cut Ham

Transfer the whole, half, or quarter-sized spiral-cut ham to the fridge and allow it to defrost for three days.

If you package individual portions, this time frame will shorten to approximately one day. This step is necessary whether or not you intend to reheat the ham.

In fact, “these hams are best served cold because heating sliced whole or half hams can dry out the meat and cause the glaze to melt and run off the meat.”

Therefore, if you choose to forgo reheating, you can serve the meat once it has had time to thaw.

Cooking The Spiral Cut Ham A Second Time

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and place the ham in a baking dish or roasting pan.

Then, cover the meat with a layer of aluminum foil. This will help to retain some of the moisture and prevent it from drying out as quickly.

Both thawings properly and taking steps to keep the moisture intact are paramount because the ham has already been cooked once prior to purchase. 

Finally, cook the meat for 10 minutes for every pound. Allow the ham to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Check regularly to ensure that the meat does not dry out. You can also add a small amount of water or stock (approximately half a cup) to the bottom of the pan to help avoid this issue. 

Alternatively, reheat slices of ham in the microwave or in a skillet. Finally, it is imperative that you consume the meat within five days of thawing.

Moreover, do not leave the ham out for more than two hours time. Otherwise, dangerous bacteria can grow. 

Final Thoughts

Spiral cut ham is a spectacular choice no matter if you go with a smoked or honey-baked variety!

Not only will the slices fall off the bone, but it makes for efficient storage when leftovers are what you intend to freeze. 

Lastly, if you notice that the rosy pink color has changed to green, grey, or brown color, this is a clear sign of spoilage.

Moreover, if the ham is hard to touch or it has developed a slimy film, the ham is not safe to consume. While inconvenient, it is always best to err on the side of caution.

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