Sliced ham is a mainstay for sandwiches and large family gatherings. Some large stores will also sell more ham than a family can use in one week. If packaged well, and in the right temperature, the ham can stay in the freezer for extended periods of time. Leaving it in for longer than the recommended time can compromise the flavour and texture of the meat.
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Purdue University recommends only freezing vacuum-sealed sliced ham, claiming that opened, non-vacuum sealed containers can develop a rancid flavour within days or weeks. If you have opened the sliced ham and would like to re-vacuum seal it, commercial and residential vacuum sealing devices are available at most warehouse stores. The USDA makes no comment as to needing a vacuum seal in order to freeze sliced ham.
According to the USDA, sliced ham, opened or unopened, will remain edible from one to two months in the freezer. Their date range is based on quality, as frozen ham will stay safe to eat indefinitely, but the flavour will be compromised after one to two months. Unopened fresh and uncooked sliced ham can last in the freezer up to six months.
Texture and Flavor
The flavour of the frozen ham should remain the same or very similar to the flavour when unfrozen, if eaten within the recommended time frame. If there is a slight difference, gravy and sauces can be used to enhance the natural flavours of the ham. If you defrost and refreeze the sliced ham multiple times, the texture is more likely to be affected.
For consistent tasting meat, your freezer should remain under -17.8 degrees C at all times. Sub-zero temperatures are recommended for premium quality. When the ham changes in temperature, the water expands and retracts, affecting the texture of the meat. It also may increase the chance of ice crystals, or freezer burn developing on the sliced ham.
To defrost the meat, place it in the refrigerator and allow it to defrost fully. This usually takes no longer than 24 hours. Microwaving to defrost will cook the meat and therefore change the flavour and texture.
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