Traditionally preserved and consumed during winter, smoked ham which is a cut of meat obtained from a pig’s leg, has managed to make its way into everyday meals because of how tasty it is.
In addition, it is pretty versatile and can be had for breakfast, brunch, and even dinner.
Smoked ham is readily available in many food outlets, but many people are learning to make their own at home using professional smokers.
As a frequent and experienced ham (and other meats) processor, I can tell you it is not a difficult process.
The main challenge, however, comes in when you have made quite a bit of the smoked ham, and you have a lot of it left over.
So, what happens when you have more than you can finish in one go.
That is why you need to know the cautions to take to avoid your smoked ham from going bad.
So, how long does smoked ham last before it goes bad? Here is a detailed breakdown of the same.
What is Smoked Ham?
Smoked ham is a type of meat obtained from the leg of a pig.
As the name suggests, it is prepared through a process called smoking.
The meat is added into special kilns that have chambers in which wood is burnt to produce smoke.
For the best flavor, many ham makers use hickory and maple woods to generate the smoke, with hickory delivering a strong taste, and maple imparting a mild but sweet one.
By smoking the pig’s leg slowly in controlled temperatures, it gets infused through and obtains a characteristic smoky taste.
One of the reasons why it is a popular type of meat is the fact that it is very tasty.
In addition, it also comes with multiple health benefits seeing as it is rich in protein, and has high levels of iron, nine essential amino acids, and many B vitamins which are vital for body health.
How long does Smoked Ham Last? Does Smoked Ham Go Bad?
Because of the method through which it is prepared, smoked ham can last a good deal of time before it is opened.
It is taken through a curing process as well as smoking which works to eliminate harmful bacteria that cause spoilage.
It can, however, go bad once opened.
Here is how long it can last based on storage according to FoodsSafety.
- Vacuum sealed (Before opening).
When the smoked ham is bought, it is always vacuum sealed.
For this reason, it remains free of microorganisms for as long as it stays closed.
When in this state, you can store the ham in your pantry for up to 1 year without refrigeration.
Within this time, it maintains its taste and integrity, and it remains unaffected by factors that can cause it to go bad.
- Pantry (Once opened).
When you break the seal, you allow the smoked ham to interact with air which contains many micro-organisms which are eager to feed on the same.
For this reason, you reduce its shelf life dramatically.
If you store it in your pantry without refrigeration, it cannot last more than three days without going bad.
You may have to refrigerate it if you want it to last longer.
- In the refrigerator/ freezer .
Refrigeration is one of the best ways to preserve your leftover smoked ham.
The low temperatures tend to render harmful micro-organisms inactive which in turn buys you a little more time.
However, this does not prove a lasting solution since it only buys you a couple more days.
When refrigerated, smoked ham can only last from 5 to 7 days depending on how low the temperature in the refrigerator is.
It cannot, however, last longer as the micro-organisms start to work on it after the said 7 days.
Can you Freeze Smoked Ham?
Yes, you can.
Freezing smoked ham will allow it to last from 4 to 6 months without going bad.
There is, however, a small condition. For successful freezing, you need to pack it in a plastic food bag and vacuum seal it.
How to Tell if Smoked Ham is Bad?
Here are a few signs that let you know that your smoked ham has gone bad:
Instead of a smoky smell, spoiled ham will give off a strong rotting smell.
If you notice this, it is time to toss your ham in the bin.
- Moldy spots.
In the early stages of spoilage, you may notice small patches of white, green, or grey mold.
It leaves poisonous deposits of mycotoxins which may cause severe food poisoning if eaten.
Smoked ham has a characteristic pink color when it is raw and if uncured, it may have a pale hue.
It tends to maintain this pink color when it is cooked.
When it goes bad, it starts to turn green, gray, brown, or black.
If you notice any of these colors on your ham, it means that it has started to go bad and is not ideal for consumption.
When fresh, smoked ham has a firm texture, but it is also moist.
Spoiled smoked ham, on the other hand, will present a slimy or sticky texture when touched.
This is a clear indication that it has started to go bad and should, therefore, not be eaten.
Here are a few reasons why smoked ham can go bad.
- High ambient temperatures.
This is likely one of the reasons why smoked ham lasts only a short time, especially when not refrigerated.
Warmth makes it easy for microorganisms to grow, causing the ham to go bad.
- Exposure to air.
Air contains a high number of microorganisms, and these will contaminate the ham when it is exposed.
This is why it is important to have it vacuum sealed.
- Excess moisture.
Excess moisture also provides a breeding ground for microorganisms, and these will cause the ham to go bad.
Smoked ham is a delicacy enjoyed across the globe.
It is great to have at any time of day as a snack or as part of a main meal.
Like many other foods, it is prone to spoilage, and this is why it is important to try and preserve it in the most ideal ways to stretch how long it can stay.
If, however, you notice any of the spoilage signs, do not consume it as it may lead to a health issue.