How to Thaw a Frozen Ham Safely


The delicious, old-fashioned taste of ham makes it favorite choice, not only for the holidays, but all year long. If you’ve got some frozen ham that you’re planning to eat soon, here are your three options for safely thawing it.

(1) Thaw Ham in the Refrigerator

This is the easiest method for defrosting a ham — but it also takes the longest amount of time, so you’ll need to plan ahead.

·   Keep the frozen ham in its original, unopened wrapper and place in a container or tray that will prevent the ham juices from dripping on other foods.

·   Place the frozen ham in the fridge — be sure your refrigerator temperature is set at 40 °F or below.

·   You’ll need to allow about 4 to 6 hours per pound of frozen ham you plan to thaw in the fridge.

How long does it take to thaw frozen ham in the fridge? Approximate times:

- 5 pounds —   24 hours
- 10 pounds — 2 full days
- 15 pounds — 3 full days

Do you have to cook the frozen ham as soon as it’s thawed? No — as long as the ham was thawed in the refrigerator. Ham that’s been defrosted in the refrigerator can be kept for an additional 3 to 5 days in the fridge before cooking.

Another plus of thawing ham in the refrigerator: If your plans change and you decide not to cook the ham at all, you can safely refreeze the defrosted ham within 3 to 5 days (although there may be some loss of quality).


(2) Thaw Ham in Cold Water

You can defrost your frozen ham much faster in cold water. But compared to refrigerator thawing, the process will require a lot more attention on your behalf.

·   Make sure the frozen ham is in a leak-proof package or plastic bag.

·   To thaw the ham, submerge the bag in cold tap water — never use warm or hot water, as that can cause the outer layer of the food to heat up to a temperature where harmful bacteria begins to multiply.

·   Change the water every 30 minutes, to ensure that it stays cold enough.

·   Using this thawing method, it will take about 30 minutes for each pound of ham you need to defrost.

How long does it take to thaw frozen ham in cold water? Approximate times:

- 5 pounds:   2.5 hours
- 10 pounds: 5.0 hours
- 15 pounds: 7.5 hours

If you’ve used the cold water method to defrost your ham, you’ll need to cook the ham as soon as it’s completely thawed.

You shouldn’t refreeze raw ham that’s been defrosted in cold water. Once you’ve cooked the ham, though, you can then refreeze it, if you wish.


(3) Thaw Ham in the Microwave

If your frozen ham is small enough — and you’re really pressed for time— you can defrost the ham in the microwave.

·   Check your owner’s manual for the minutes per pound and the power level to use for thawing.

·   Remove all outside wrapping.

·   Place on a microwave-safe dish to catch any juices that might leak.

If you defrost your ham in the microwave, you’ll need to cook it immediately after it’s thawed.


How Not to Thaw Your Frozen Ham

You should never thaw a frozen ham on the counter at room temperature or in hot water. Under either of those methods, the outer layer of the ham can sit between the bacteria-breeding temperatures of 40°F and 140 °F for far too long to be safe.

Can You Cook a Frozen Ham?

Yes — you can cook your ham directly from the frozen state. It'll take longer, but you can still end up with a tasty ham. See this article for detailed advice on how to cook a frozen ham. 

Visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service Web site for more information on safely defrosting ham.

Related Articles:
Can You Cook a Frozen Ham Without Thawing it First?
How Long Does Thawed Ham Last in the Fridge?
How Long Does Cooked Ham Last?


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