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How Long Does Ham Last in the Fridge?

Posted in Food Safety on March 31, 2022

How long ham lasts in the fridge largely depends on the type of ham and storage conditions. Ensuring it remains refrigerated when not in use will extend its shelf-life.

Ham Expiration Dates

Type of Ham Fridge (40°F or below) Freezer (Below 0°F)
Fresh, uncooked, uncured From 3 to 5 days From 5 to 6 months
Fresh, cooked, uncured Less than 4 days From 3 to 4 months
Cured, uncooked, cook-before-you-eat From 5 to 7 days (or “best before” date) From 3 to 4 months
Cooked-at-plant, vacuum-sealed, unopened 2 weeks (or “best before” date) From 1 to 2 months
Cooked, store-wrapped, whole 1 week From 1 to 2 months
Cooked, store-wrapped, cut From 3 to 5 days From 1 to 2 months
Cooked, country ham (dry-cured ham) 1 week 1 month
Canned with “Keep Refrigerated” label, unopened From 6 to 9 months Not suitable for freezing
Canned, shelf-stable, opened From 3 to 4 days From 1 to 2 months
Dry Italian or Spanish style, Parma, Serrano, or Prosciutto ham 1 month From 2 to 3 months

However, check the label that comes with the ham you bought, as the “best before” date may vary based on the type.

How Should Ham Be Stored?

Here is how to maximize cooked ham’s quality and shelf life:

  • Refrigerate it within two hours of cooking.
  • Store it in a shallow airtight container or wrap it tightly with plastic wrap or heavy-duty aluminum foil.
  • When you pull it out of the fridge, cut the meat you need and put the rest back in as soon as possible.
  • Never leave the meat at room temperature for more than two consecutive hours.
  • If storing in the freezer, place the ham in an airtight container, a heavy-duty freezer bag, or wrap tightly in freezer wrap or aluminum foil.

Another option to keep a large ham fresh when storing it in the fridge is to use a tea towel or new pillowcase soaked in a vinegar solution that is placed over and completely covers the meat. Then put the covered ham in the coldest part of the fridge and repeat the process every three days. The vinegar solution is two and a half tablespoons of white vinegar mixed with four cups of water.

How Do You Tell If Ham Has Gone Bad?

Spoiled ham is easy to spot, and here are several signs to look out for:

Unpleasant Smell

If there is a sulfur-like or sour smell, the ham should be thrown out.

Change in Color

Pink is the standard color for ham, so it should not be consumed if it begins to turn green or grey.

Signs of Mold

If there is any sign of mold on the meat, it’s time to toss it.

The Texture

Fresh ham is firm and moist, whereas spoiled ham will be slimy or sticky.

The Taste

Rarely, you will not be able to tell from the exterior of the ham when it has gone bad, but if that is the case and the ham tastes off, then throw it out and don’t risk eating it.

What Happens if You Eat Bad Ham?

When you eat bad ham, there is a risk of being exposed to dangerous bacteria, such as E. coli or Bacteroids. If ingested, these bacteria can cause food poisoning, resulting in stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. In severe cases, some bacterial toxins can damage the kidneys and may be life-threatening.