A whole smoked ham, properly stored in the refrigerator, will usually last 3 to 5 weeks. An uncut half smoked ham will last around 2 to 3 weeks when refrigerated. Sliced smoked ham typically lasts 7 to 10 days in the fridge.
Here is a quick overview of how long smoked ham lasts in the refrigerator:
- Whole smoked ham – 3 to 5 weeks
- Half smoked ham – 2 to 3 weeks
- Sliced smoked ham – 7 to 10 days
How Long Does a Whole Smoked Ham Last Refrigerated?
An unopened whole smoked ham that has been continuously refrigerated will keep for 3 to 5 weeks after the sell-by date printed on the packaging. If it has been opened but properly repackaged and stored, it will last for 3 to 5 weeks from the date it was opened.
A high-quality smoked ham that was cured correctly at the meat processing facility can potentially last even longer, up to 2 months. However, most experts recommend using or freezing smoked ham within 3 to 5 weeks for best quality and safety.
Factors Affecting How Long a Whole Smoked Ham Lasts
Several factors affect how long a smoked ham will last in the refrigerator:
- Curing method – Hams cured with nitrites tend to last longer than those without.
- Smoking method – Heavily smoked hams keep longer than those with lighter smoke flavoring.
- Packaging – Vacuum-sealed hams maintain quality longer compared to hams stored loose.
- Storage temperature – Storing at a consistent 40°F prolongs shelf life.
- Exposure to air – Repeated opening and closing the packaging shortens shelf life.
Signs a Whole Smoked Ham Has Gone Bad
Here are some signs that a whole smoked ham stored in the refrigerator has spoiled and should be discarded:
- Slimy texture or sticky, tacky surface
- Mold growth anywhere on the ham
- Unpleasant sour odor
- Dry, hard edges with white/gray crystals
- Brown or green discoloration
If a whole smoked ham exhibits any of these characteristics, it is best to throw it away. Do not taste or eat spoiled smoked ham.
How Long Does an Uncut Half Smoked Ham Last in the Fridge?
The shelf life of an uncut half smoked ham stored in the fridge is around 2 to 3 weeks past the sell-by date on the packaging, or from when it was opened. It may last a bit longer or shorter depending on factors like curing method and storage conditions.
Since an uncut half ham has less surface area exposed to air compared to a whole ham, it will generally keep refrigerated for a slightly shorter period before going bad. Follow the same storage guidelines as you would for a whole smoked ham.
Tips for Refrigerating Half of a Smoked Ham
Here are some tips for maximizing the shelf life of an uncut half smoked ham stored in the refrigerator:
- Keep the ham in its original vacuum packaging if possible.
- Otherwise, tightly rewrap the cut face in plastic wrap or foil.
- Place it on a tray or plate to catch any juices.
- Store on a shelf rather than in the door to maintain optimal temperature.
- Use within 2-3 weeks for best quality and food safety.
How Long Does Sliced Smoked Ham Last Refrigerated?
Once sliced, smoked ham will only last about 7 to 10 days in the refrigerator. The USDA recommends using sliced ham within 3 to 5 days for food safety reasons.
The increased surface area exposed to air accelerates deterioration and growth of spoilage bacteria when ham is sliced. Properly storing the sliced ham can help extend its fridge life.
How to Store Sliced Smoked Ham
Here are some tips for keeping sliced smoked ham fresh in the fridge for 7-10 days:
- Store slices in air-tight packaging like zip top bags or airtight containers.
- Keep refrigerated at 40°F or below.
- Use within 3-5 days for optimum quality and safety.
- Check for off odors, sliminess, or discoloration daily.
- Discard ifham develops signs of spoilage.
Sliced smoked ham also freezes well for long-term storage. Frozen slices will keep for 2 to 3 months in a 0°F freezer.
How to Tell if Smoked Ham Has Gone Bad
Smoked ham, whether whole, half, or sliced, can grow mold, bacteria, and other pathogens over time in the fridge. Here are signs that indicate your refrigerated smoked ham has spoiled and needs to be discarded:
- Slime layer – Slime on the surface is a sign of bacterial growth.
- Mold – Dry fuzz or fuzzy spots indicate mold.
- Yeasty smell – A yeasty or sour odor indicates spoilage.
- Discoloration – Green, gray, or brown hues signal the ham is bad.
- Slimy texture – A sticky or tacky feel is not normal.
- Drying – Overly dry meat with white crystallization around the edges has spoiled.
Your nose is often the best tool for determining if refrigerated smoked ham has gone bad. Give it a sniff test and look it over before eating. When in doubt, throw it out.
Smoked Ham Refrigerator Storage Tips
Proper storage is key to maximizing how long smoked ham stays fresh in the fridge. Follow these tips:
- Store ham in original packaging until opened or cut.
- Once opened, tightly rewrap cut surfaces in plastic wrap or foil.
- Keep refrigerated at 40°F or below.
- Use within 3-5 weeks for whole hams, 2-3 weeks for halves.
- Use sliced ham within 7 days, or freeze for longer storage.
- Rinse ham before slicing to prevent cross contamination.
- Avoid introducing contaminants by using clean utensils and cutting boards.
- Cook or freeze ham within recommended time frames.
Can You Refreeze Thawed Smoked Ham?
Previously frozen smoked ham can be safely refrozen if it was thawed in the refrigerator and has not been sitting at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. The quality may start to decline after one refreeze cycle.
To refreeze smoked ham:
- Thaw ham for 24-48 hours in the fridge or microwave on defrost setting.
- Cook ham immediately, or refreeze within 2 hours.
- Portion ham into usable sizes in freezer bags or containers.
- Avoid refreezing more than once.
How Long Does Smoked Ham Last in the Freezer?
Freezing is an excellent way to extend the shelf life of smoked ham significantly. Frozen smoked ham remains safe to eat indefinitely, but quality slowly declines over longer storage times. For best quality, use frozen smoked ham within the following time frames:
- Whole smoked ham: 4 to 6 months
- Half smoked ham: 3 to 4 months
- Sliced smoked ham: 2 to 3 months
Properly freeze smoked ham as soon as possible after purchasing for maximum freezer shelf life. Use freezer-safe materials like plastic wrap, aluminum foil, freezer paper, or freezer bags.
Freeze smoked ham stored in its original packaging up to 2 weeks past the sell-by or use-by date. After that, overwrap the original retail packaging with foil or plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn over the long term.
For storing ham after it is opened, divide into usable portion sizes and wrap tightly in foil or freezer bags, removing as much air as possible. This protects the ham from oxidation and quality loss in the freezer.
Clearly label packages with contents and freeze dates so you can use the oldest packages first. Maintain a stable 0°F freezer temperature for longest shelf life.
Thawing Frozen Smoked Ham
Always thaw smoked ham stored in the freezer properly in the refrigerator, cold water, or microwave:
- Refrigerator: 24 hours per 5 pounds
- Cold water: 30 minutes per pound, changed every 30 minutes
- Microwave: Defrost setting, 5 minutes per pound
Cook thawed smoked ham immediately, or refreeze within 2 hours if not using right away. Do not thaw at room temperature to prevent bacterial growth.
How to Cook Refrigerated or Frozen Smoked Ham
Smoked ham that has been properly stored in the fridge or freezer is safe to eat. Follow these guidelines for cooking refrigerated or frozen smoked ham:
- Refrigerated: Cook within 3-5 weeks (whole ham) or 7-10 days (sliced) for safety and quality.
- Frozen: Thaw completely before cooking.
- Cook to an internal temperature of 140°F measured with a food thermometer.
- Bring refrigerated ham to room temperature before cooking for even heating.
- Use glazes, sauces, and rubs just before heating or serving.
- Carve refrigerated ham just before eating or refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours.
Smoked ham products labeled “fully cooked” or “ready-to-eat” can be enjoyed cold straight from the fridge or gently warmed to an internal temperature of 140°F.
Can You Eat Smoked Ham Without Cooking?
Fully cooked ready-to-eat hams that are vacuum sealed or canned can be safely consumed cold without cooking. Be sure to observe the manufacturer’s use-by date and storage instructions.
For fresh cooked smoked ham products like whole bone-in hams, halves, and slices, the USDA recommends reheating to 165°F for food safety prior to eating.
How to Know If Smoked Ham Is Bad
It can be difficult to know through sight and smell alone if smoked ham has gone bad, especially before you open the package. Here are some signs that indicate spoiled smoked ham:
- Bulging or leaking packaging
- Mold growth inside packaging
- Foul, off odors upon opening
- Slimy texture or sticky surface
- Dryness with white crystal around edges
- Significant discoloration
Trust your senses of smell and sight to determine if refrigerated smoked ham has spoiled. When in doubt, throw it out.
How Long After Sell-By and Use-By Date Is Smoked Ham Good?
The sell-by and use-by dates on packages of smoked ham indicate the last date it should be sold or used for peak quality, not for safety. An unopened smoked ham can typically be consumed well past its sell-by date if it has been continuously refrigerated.
Follow these guidelines for smoked ham dated with sell-by and use-by dates:
- Sell-by date: Consume up to 2 weeks past if refrigerated.
- Use-by date: Consume up to 1 week past if refrigerated.
- Discard ham if moldy, slimy, or has an off smell at any point.
The printed dates on smoked ham should not be considered to indicate spoilage, but rather the timeframe for best quality. Always rely on inspection and your senses when evaluating refrigerated smoked ham freshness.
How to Store Leftover Cooked Smoked Ham
Properly stored leftover cooked smoked ham will last 3 to 4 days refrigerated. Follow these guidelines for storing leftovers:
- Refrigerate within 2 hours in shallow airtight containers.
- Use leftovers within 3 to 4 days.
- Discard if you notice signs of spoilage like sliminess or off odors.
- Refreeze extras for longer storage.
You can also freeze any uneaten smoked ham after you initially cook it. Portion into freezer-safe packaging leaving 1⁄2 inch headspace, label, and freeze for 2 to 3 months.
Can You Eat Leftover Ham Cold?
It is safe to eat fully cooked leftover ham cold directly from the refrigerator. Simply slice or portion and enjoy cold smoked ham on sandwiches, in salads, or as easy snacks.
For added safety and quality, you can gently reheat leftover cooked ham to 165°F until hot and steaming before eating.
With proper refrigerated storage, an unopened whole smoked ham lasts 3 to 5 weeks past its sell-by date, a half ham lasts 2 to 3 weeks, and sliced ham 1 week. Once opened, use refrigerated smoked ham within 3 to 5 weeks for whole, 2 to 3 weeks for half, and 3 to 5 days for sliced.
Check refrigerated smoked ham for signs of spoilage like odor, slime, and mold. Discard expired, spoiled, or questionable smoked ham products. For extended shelf life, freeze smoked ham.