One of the most popular potluck dishes is a spiral-sliced ham. Ham conveniently serves a crowd, is easy to prepare, and is budget-friendly. It tastes delicious hot or cold and pairs well with a lot of side dishes.
But it’s important to make sure that you consider food safety to keep your party going and ensure no one gets sick. How long can ham sit out at room temperature during your potluck gathering?
Ham can sit out at room temperature for up to two hours according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This applies to all types of meat, including turkey, chicken, and sausage. After two hours, you should wrap it or put it in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
- How Long Can Ham Sit Out?
- How Long Can I Leave Cooked Ham Out At Room Temperature?
- How Long Can Frozen Ham Sit Out At Room Temperature?
- How Long Can A Spiral Ham Stay In The Refrigerator Before Cooking?
- How Long Can Sliced Ham Sit Out?
- How Long Can Honeybaked Ham Sit Out At Room Temperature?
- How Long Can Smoked Ham Sit Out?
- What Happens If You Eat Bad Ham?
- Final Thoughts
- Related Guides
How Long Can Ham Sit Out?
Whether your ham is cooked or raw, you should adhere to the two-hour guideline and store it safely before it goes bad. After two hours, put any uneaten ham in a sealed container in the refrigerator or freezer. If you plan to snack on leftovers soon, you can wrap the serving dish or plate in plastic wrap or reusable storage wrap.
It will keep for up to four days in the fridge. Leaving ham sitting out doesn’t just apply to a raw or cooked ham placed on a dish out of the refrigerator. It can apply to any dish that has ham as an ingredient. This can include soups, stews, vegetable side dishes, and sandwiches.
Make sure that any food sitting out that has meat as one of its ingredients is stored correctly in the fridge or freezer within two hours. Ham often makes a large quantity of food, making it ideal for leftovers to use in other dishes.
You can store any leftover ham for future use in Ziploc freezer bags. The ham bone also makes a great base for soups and stews. When you carve the ham, you can put the bone right into a freezer bag and pop it in the freezer. It will keep for three to four months if cooked and up to six months if uncooked, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Food Safety Considerations For Pre-cooked Ham
Many hams sold in the supermarket come partially or fully pre-cooked. Preparation instructions detail how to heat up the ham and season it for great taste. Whether your ham is cooked or uncooked, you still need to put it in the fridge within two hours.
The benefit of buying a pre-cooked ham is in the ease of preparation. It may even be pre-seasoned and spiral-sliced. All you need to do is heat and enjoy. Consider any time that it takes to get your ham from the store to your home in the calculation of your two-hour time limit.
If you need to travel for more than two hours, it is a good idea to bring a cooler with ice packs or ice to keep it cool.
Tip: Ask the store for ice for your cooler (or purchase it at check out). Some butchers and smaller boutique stores will offer ice free of charge when purchasing meat. The ice should line the bottom of the cooler and cover the ham inside.
How Long Can I Leave Cooked Ham Out At Room Temperature?
The USDA guidelines apply to cooked ham as well as raw. If you need to keep your serving line open for more than two hours, don’t worry. You can set up a smaller serving dish and replenish it periodically from ham kept in the fridge (reheated if necessary) to make sure that the ham served is safe to eat. Just be sure to monitor the time closely.
If you let any meat sit out for more than two hours, you run the risk of bacteria developing and making people who eat it sick.
Tip: Keep the bone from a bone-in ham to use in the future for soup stocks. You can store it in a freezer-safe bag for up to four months. Delicious and economical!
How To Avoid Food Poisoning From Ham?
The best way to keep yourself and your guests from getting food poisoning is to adhere to the two-hour limit and store your leftover ham in the refrigerator or freezer within that window. These harmful bacteria love to grow and replicate on ham that is left out at room temperature for more than two hours.
How Long Can Frozen Ham Sit Out At Room Temperature?
Frozen ham should be put in the refrigerator within two hours, just like cooked or fresh ham. If you plan to serve ham that day, you can store it in the fridge until you are ready to cook. You can also defrost it in the refrigerator, making sure to put it on a plate or in a dish to prevent any juices or condensation from leaking onto your other food.
If you are not going to serve the ham in the next two or three days, it’s best to put it in the freezer until it is time to defrost it. Keeping a ham in the freezer will inhibit any bacteria growth and keep it safe for up to four months.
How Long Can A Spiral Ham Stay In The Refrigerator Before Cooking?
Many hams come pre-sliced and pre-cooked. You can buy them frozen or thawed, then put them in the refrigerator or freezer upon arriving home. If your ham is still frozen, do not set it on the counter to thaw.
This can result in the growth of bacteria, just like if you left it out too long after cooking. Instead, follow these helpful instructions for thawing your ham. Put your ham in the refrigerator 2-3 days before you plan to cook and serve it.
This will allow the meat to thaw all the way through. Don’t have enough time before your big event? You can put the ham in a cold water bath to thaw, which will speed up the process. Just make sure that the water is cold, not room temperature or warm. You may need to change the water as it warms.
Do I Need to Thaw A Ham Completely Before Cooking?
No, you can cook your ham while it is still frozen, although it may take longer to cook. The important thing is to make sure that the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit before eating.
You can use a meat thermometer and measure at the widest part of the ham. Many hams come with thawing and cooking instructions directly on the packaging. Follow yours and always use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature before eating.
How Long Can Sliced Ham Sit Out?
Deli ham should also be monitored and eaten within the two-hour time limit. Because deli ham is often eaten cold, it is a little bit easier to follow these guidelines without taking special steps. Simply keep your cold cuts in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat them.
You can use sliced ham (deli ham or leftovers from a baked ham) to make delicious dishes like sandwiches that highlight the ham as the star or use it as an ingredient in soups or as added flavor to side dishes.
Just remember that including ham (or any meat) requires that you eat the dish within two hours or put it in the fridge to avoid food poisoning. Not all recipes with ham fall in the main dish category, so consider your ingredients carefully and how best to make sure your food stays safe.
Some of my favorite ways to serve ham include:
- Croque madame sandwich with ham
- Split pea soup
- Ham and bean soup
- Ham and cheese sliders
How Long Can Honeybaked Ham Sit Out At Room Temperature?
A delicious Honeybaked ham needs to follow the same guidelines to maintain food safety and can sit out at room temperature for up to two hours.
The popular ham distributor actually recommends serving Honeybaked ham directly out of the refrigerator. All of their hams come ready to eat without any special preparation. If you do prefer your ham heated, you can warm it by the slide rather than the whole dish. This cuts down on prep time, cleanup, and makes sure that your food stays safe.
How Long Can Smoked Ham Sit Out?
Smoked meats also need to be stored in the refrigerator or freezer within two hours of cooking. Smoking ham impacts the flavor of the meat, giving it a rich, smokey flavor. Smoked ham hocks are a popular dish using part of the pork leg. Because they include the ham bone, they have an intense flavor that many diners love.
The only exception to the two-hour rule is storing ham jerky. When you dry and cure ham with salt, it can be stored outside of the fridge like any other type of jerky. When making your own ham jerky, the National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends storing it for up to two weeks outside of the refrigerator as long as you following proper drying procedures to make it safe.
You can store it in the fridge for prolonged freshness and better flavor.
What Happens If You Eat Bad Ham?
Food poisoning can happen to even the most diligent of home chefs. Knowing the signs of food poisoning, how to find relief, and when to contact your doctor will help you navigate this challenge.
It can be helpful to know the signs of food poisoning and the types of bacteria that may grow on ham if left out too long. According to the Centers for Disease Control, these can range from mild to severe, depending on the actual germ that is causing the food poisoning.
If you see or experience these symptoms, your food may be to blame.
- Upset stomach
- Stomach cramps
- Nausea or vomiting
When you consume food that has gone bad, your body attempts to get the culprit out of your body. This can happen through vomiting or passing the food through your digestive system, with the accompanying stomach troubles.
What Kind Of Bacteria Cause Food Poisoning From Eating Bad Ham?
Food poisoning occurs when bacteria grow on the surface of foods, which are then eaten. This can happen when ham is left out for longer than the recommended two hours. Here are a few common culprits and where they are commonly found.
- Staphylococcus aureus (Staph): Sliced meats
- Salmonella: Raw or undercooked meats
- Listeria: Deli meats
- Campylobacter: Raw or undercooked meats
- Escherichia coli (E. coli): Tainted food or water
Food poisoning symptoms usually resolve with time as the bad food and bacteria exits your system. But if you are concerned, it can be helpful to call or see your doctor to make sure. Complications due to food poisoning are often the result of dehydration. If you run a high fever of over 105 degrees F or are unable to keep any liquids down, see your doctor before you get too dehydrated.
One of the best ways to prevent food poisoning is by monitoring the time that your ham has been left out at room temperatures. If you aren’t sure, look for these tell-tale signs that the food has spoiled.
Signs Your Ham May Be Bad:
- Bad or unusual taste or odor
- Unusual texture
When in doubt, throw questionably meat out and look for another snack or dish. Better safe than sick!
Ham can sit out at room temperature for up to two hours and still be eaten without risk of food poisoning. Enjoying ham in a potluck can be a delicious way to celebrate and share a meal with family and friends. Following a few food safety guidelines will make sure that everyone walks away from the experience with memories and not an upset stomach.
Katie is an experienced writer, who wrote for big magazines like The Spruce. She is also a mom of three (Sebastian, Lincoln, and Hannah). In her spare time, she likes to read, day hike, and explore hidden gems around her home in North Carolina. You can connect with Katie on Instagram @katiebwriter or her website, www.katiemelynnbegley.com.