Honey baked ham and roasted turkey breast are a winning team when it comes to entertaining for the holidays or big gatherings of friends and family. Honey baked hams can be served and prepared in so many different ways. Bone-in, deboned, spiral ham, sliced ham, and whole honey baked ham.
If you’re shopping or preparing for a big feast a few weeks in advance you’ll probably want to freeze the ham before or after it has been prepared to save you time during the holiday chaos. Since ham generally comes in a sizable chunk of deliciousness it is inevitable that there will be leftovers. There is a good chance you’ll need to freeze these as well to prevent anything from going to waste and allow yourself to enjoy sweet and salty glazed meaty goodness for many more weeks.
If properly stored, you can conjure up a variety of delectable breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals with the leftover honey baked ham. Here’s everything you need to know when freezing ham and storing ham in the freezer.
Types of Ham
The cut of pork used specifically for ham comes from the pig’s hind leg. What differentiates the product known as ham from just a regular pork hind leg is the preparation method which can involve aging, curing, smoking, and cooking the meat with a glaze. The type of preparation the pork undergoes will influence its flavor, structure, and cooking method.
Brined ham, or wet-cured ham, that is soaked in a salty liquid is the most popular type bought in stores. It can also be found in fresh, uncured cuts, dry-cured, or smoked preparations. Dry-cured types are covered with salt entirely and stored so that the salt permeates the meat as a means of preservation.
Smoking is generally used to prepare the meat in conjunction with curing or cooking. It is cold smoked for a period that can vary between a few days or weeks which gives it the characteristic porky, salty, smoky notes it is prized for.
Aged ham requires a lengthy process of preparation that involves heavy curing, smoking, and aging for one year up to as long as seven years. This long process which yields a deep and strong flavor makes it a pricey product to purchase. As it ages, mold forms around the exterior which needs to be scraped and washed before consuming.
This is where our honey baked ham comes in and is especially popular for holiday celebrations. Partially cooked or uncooked ham is baked with a sweet honey, maple, or fruit and spice combination glaze to give it the perfect sweet, salty, and sometimes smoky flavor.
Degree of Cooking
Glazed and unglazed ham can be sold fully cooked, uncooked, or partially cooked. The one you purchase will most likely depend on how much time you have to do your own cooking as well as how you want to prepare the pork.
You may want to add your own flavor profile or opt for an uncooked version that is more budget-friendly to cook yourself. Fully cooked and prepared meat is however very convenient as it requires almost no preparation on your part and can be eaten either warm or cold, straight from the packaging.
Bone-in or Boneless Ham
Another consideration when choosing your piece of meat is whether you want a partially boned, deboned, or bone-in piece. This may depend on the price, how you want to cook it, and mostly on how you want to serve it. The shank end of the cut is generally fattier while the rear end is leaner and easy to slice.
When and How to Freeze Honey Baked Ham
Whether you’re preparing the pork from scratch, purchasing a fully prepared hind leg, or opting for spiral sliced ham from the deli, you can preserve it in the freezer to ensure not a single morsel of deliciousness goes to waste.
The method of freezing preparation will vary slightly depending on how it has been prepared, and whether it has or has not been cooked. To ensure you only eat top-quality pork we also suggest following some strict protocols when storing, defrosting, and refreezing the meat to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria which can cause quite serious foodborne illness.
How to Freeze Uncooked or Partially Cooked Ham
If you’ve gone to the store and bought either a frozen or defrosted whole ham from the cooler section, you can freeze it straight away when you get home. You want to be sure that the meat has been stored in a cool location and keep it as cold as possible between the purchase and getting to your home freezer.
When you get home, check that the packaging is fully intact with no small openings, holes, or tears. To be safe you may want to place it in a large airtight freezer bag or wrap it in a layer of cling film and foil. There should be no exposure to air or moisture as this will cause freezer burn and spoil your delicious holiday celebration centerpiece.
Place it straight into the freezer where it should stay at a consistent temperature (below freezing) until it’s time to remove it for preparation and eating.
Note: Placing the meat in the freezer in its store packaging alone will be good for 2 to 3 weeks. If you are planning on having it in the freezer for longer than this it is best to double wrap it for extra protection.
How to Freeze Cooked Honey Baked Ham
There are two ways to freeze cooked ham, whether you’ve prepared it in advance or already devoured half of it and need to store leftovers. It can be frozen whole, on the bone, or sliced. For leftovers, slicing the meat before freezing will make things much easier. This way you can take out just as much as you need at any time without having to thaw the whole chunk and not being able to finish it.
Freezing Leftover Ham
Step 1: Slice and Cool
If your deliciously glazed pork hind is not yet sliced, slice it into portion sizes of your choice. Ideally, you want slices that are slightly thicker rather than being too thin as they won’t dry out as easily. You also want to ensure they are not too big so that you can use the whole portion when defrosted since you won’t be able to refreeze it again.
Step 2: Cool
If still warm, let it cool completely to room temperature or place it in the refrigerator to cool.
Step 3: Portion and Wrap
When cooled, wrap each sliced portion in cling film or foil. When wrapping, ensure that there are no open gaps exposing the meat to air. One layer of wrapping will be sufficient if you’re planning to use the ham within 2 weeks. If you’re keeping it frozen for longer, you’ll need a second layer of wrapping to prevent drying out and freezer burn.
Step 4: Bag It
Place each wrapped portion into a zip-top freezer bag, gently press out the air, and seal.
Step 5: Label and Freeze
Label each bag with the dates as well as what’s inside. When a few weeks go by and you discover it in the back of the freezer you may not be able to tell if it’s the ham or something else. It’s ready to go into the freezer.
How to Freeze Bone-In Ham
Step 1: Cool
It is important to ensure the ham is completely cooled before being wrapped and placed in the freezer. If the ham is still warm, condensation will cause water droplets to appear on the wrapping which will form large crystals when frozen. This will result in freezer burn and quickly deteriorate the quality, texture, and flavor of the meat.
Step 2: Dry
Use a paper towel to dab the ham and remove any excess moisture. Again, you want to avoid excess moisture from crystalizing and causing textural damage.
Step 3: First Double Wrap
If you have a freezer bag big enough to fit the hind leg, place the whole chunk in the bag and press out all the surrounding air before closing. If your bag is not big enough, you can alternatively wrap it in plastic wrap, ensuring that it is fully covered without any open gaps.
Wrap it completely in a second layer, this time with aluminum foil.
Step 4: Second Wrap
Your meat now has a double wrap, and it needs one more layer of protection. Place the foil-wrapped meat inside another freezer bag and seal it to protect the flavor and texture.
Step 5: Label and Freeze
We’re sure you won’t forget what’s in the oversize freezer bag, but just in case, it’s best to label it with the date, and then it’s ready to go straight into the freezer.
How to Thaw Honey Baked Ham
Due to meat, especially pork, being so susceptible to the growth of harmful bacteria, it is not a good idea to let it thaw at room temperature on a countertop. The safest way to thaw frozen honey baked ham is by placing it in the fridge to thaw overnight.
When reheating fully cooked ham in the oven, cover it with foil to prevent moisture loss or brush with a layer of melted butter. It can also be eaten cold on a sandwich or as a snack, so you don’t necessarily need to reheat cooked ham after it has been frozen and thawed.
If you are preparing a frozen ham that has not been cooked, it is best to defrost it beforehand. Cooking it from frozen will largely increase the cooking time required.
How long will honey baked ham last?
Once cooked, never leave honey baked ham at room temperature for more than two hours. Store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container or zip-top bag for 2 to 5 days.
How long does honey baked ham last in the freezer?
Providing that your meat is well wrapped, it will last 6 months in the freezer. You can keep it longer, however, the texture and flavor quality will start to deteriorate after six months.
Can honey baked ham go off?
Yes, you can usually tell that it has gone off by the slightly sour odor and a change in texture that appears a little slimy. Never eat expired ham, as it may lead to food poisoning.
Leftover ham can be used in so many different ways. From sandwiches, hash, omelet, and quiche to pizza, pasta, stew, soup, salad, and casseroles, there really is no limit. Luckily you don’t have to prepare all these dishes at once just to finish your leftovers. Since it can be preserved in the freezer for a long time, you can cook once and enjoy the flavors of your hard work for months to follow.
*image by urban_light/depositphotos