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How long can you keep fully cooked ham in refrigerator?

Fully cooked ham is a delicious staple during holidays and special occasions. But like most cooked meats, it does not have an indefinite refrigerator life. Knowing how long you can safely store fully cooked ham is important to avoid foodborne illness. With proper storage, fully cooked ham will keep in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. Here is a detailed guide on refrigerator storage times for fully cooked ham.

Quick Summary

Here is a quick overview on how long you can store fully cooked ham in the refrigerator:

  • Whole unopened fully cooked ham: 7 days
  • Whole cooked ham after opening: 3-5 days
  • Ham slices or halves: 3-4 days
  • Cooked ham deli meat: 3-5 days
  • Cooked ham leftovers: 3-4 days

How Long Does an Unopened Fully Cooked Ham Last in the Fridge?

An unopened fully cooked whole ham that has not been sliced into has the longest refrigerator shelf life. An intact vacuum-sealed whole ham can last up to 1 week in the refrigerator even after the use-by date printed on the packaging.

As long as the packaging is not damaged and the ham has been consistently refrigerated below 40°F, an unopened fully cooked ham will maintain quality and safety for 7 days past the use-by date on the label.

Factors Affecting Refrigerator Life of Unopened Ham

How long an unopened fully cooked ham lasts in the fridge depends on several factors:

  • Sell-by or use-by date – hams with more distant sell-by or use-by dates will last longer in the fridge compared to those nearing the date.
  • Proper packaging – an intact vacuum-sealed package prevents contamination and keeps the ham fresh.
  • Consistent refrigeration – storing the ham at a proper refrigerator temperature below 40°F is key.
  • Exposure to air – minimal exposure to air helps maintain freshness once opened.

As long as these conditions are met, an unopened fully cooked ham can safely last in the refrigerator for 7 days past the date on the package.

How Long Does a Cooked Ham Last After Opening?

Once opened and exposed to air, fully cooked ham has a shorter shelf life compared to unopened packaged ham. An opened whole cooked ham will last 3-5 days in the refrigerator.

Once sliced into or cut, fully cooked ham lasts even shorter – only 3-4 days in the refrigerator. This is because slicing exponentially increases the surface area exposed to air and potential contaminants.

Maximizing Refrigerator Life of Cooked Ham

Here are some tips for maximizing the refrigerator life of cooked ham after opening:

  • Slice only the portion you plan to eat to limit surface area exposed to air.
  • Tightly wrap ham slices or unused portions of the whole ham.
  • Store in air-tight containers or resealable plastic bags.
  • Keep ham on a plate or dish to catch any liquid drippings.
  • Don’t return unused portions to original packaging after opening.

How Long Does Sliced Deli Ham Last in the Fridge?

Pre-packaged sliced deli ham, either custom sliced at the deli counter or pre-packaged, will last 3-5 days refrigerated.

Like other sliced ham, the open surface area leads to a shorter refrigerator shelf life compared to a whole ham. Properly sealed deli ham provides a protective barrier to maintain freshness.

For the best quality, sliced deli ham is best consumed within 3-5 days of purchase. Unsliced deli ham stored in the deli case lasts longer – up to 7 days refrigerated.

Storing Deli Ham for Maximum Freshness

Follow these guidelines to help deli ham stay fresh for as long as possible:

  • Keep deli ham refrigerated at 40°F or below.
  • Use deli ham by the sell-by date printed on the packaging.
  • Open only the packages you plan to eat soon.
  • Seal deli ham packages tightly after opening.
  • Avoid cross-contaminating deli ham with raw meats, juices, etc.

How Long Does Fully Cooked Ham Last in the Freezer?

For long term storage, fully cooked ham can be safely frozen. Properly frozen, ham will last much longer compared to refrigerator storage. Here are freezer storage times for different types of fully cooked ham:

Ham Type Freezer Storage Time
Whole unopened ham 2-3 months
Opened whole ham 1-2 months
Ham slices 1-2 months
Ham leftovers 2-3 months

For best quality and freshness, cooked ham is best frozen as soon as possible. Freezing prevents microbiological growth that causes spoilage.

Tips for Freezing Ham

Follow these guidelines for freezing cooked ham:

  • Double wrap ham in plastic wrap and aluminum foil.
  • Portion ham into usable sizes before freezing.
  • Avoid freezing ham more than once; refreezing reduces quality.
  • Prevent freezer burn by minimizing air exposure.
  • Label ham portions with name and freeze date.

How to Tell if Ham has Gone Bad?

It is important to know how to tell if cooked ham has spoiled. Relying on sight and smell can help you determine if fully cooked ham has gone bad and needs to be discarded.

Here are signs that indicate fully cooked ham has spoiled and may not be safe to eat:

  • Sliminess – ham has a slimy texture and sheen.
  • Mold – visible mold growing on ham.
  • Foul odor – ham smells rancid instead of meaty.
  • Discoloration – ham turns grey, green or black.
  • Dryness – ham is dried out, shriveled, hard.

If you see any of these signs, it is best to discard the questionable ham. Do not rely on tasting ham to determine if it is spoiled, as harmful bacteria may be present.

Safety Tips for Ham Storage

Follow these safe storage practices to get the most out of your fully cooked ham and avoid foodborne illness:

  • Refrigerate ham at 40°F or below.
  • Freeze ham if not using within recommended time.
  • Avoid cross-contamination from raw meat juices.
  • Do not leave ham at room temperature for over 2 hours.
  • Discard ham immediately if moldy or smells off.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you eat fully cooked ham after use by date?

It is not recommended to eat fully cooked ham past the use by date printed on the packaging. Use by dates on perishable foods indicate the last day the product has peak quality and safety. Fully cooked ham should be discarded after this date.

How can you tell if cooked ham is bad?

Signs that cooked ham has spoiled and may not be safe to eat include sliminess, mold growth, foul odors, unnatural colors (grey, green, black), and very dry or hard texture. Rely on sight and smell, rather than taste, to determine if fully cooked ham has gone bad.

Does fully cooked ham need to be refrigerated?

Yes, fully cooked ham is perishable and must be refrigerated to slow bacteria growth. Store fully cooked ham at 40°F or below. Whole hams may sit out at room temperature for 2 hours maximum after opening. Ham that has been sitting out for longer should be discarded.

Can you freeze ham after opening?

Yes, fully cooked ham can be frozen after opening. For best quality, wrap opened ham tightly in plastic wrap and aluminum foil before freezing. Portion ham into usable sizes and freeze within 3-5 days of opening refrigerated ham. Ham that has been continuously frozen at 0°F will keep for 1-2 months.

How can you keep ham fresh longer?

Proper storage is key to keeping fully cooked ham fresh longer. Store ham sealed in packaging until ready to use. After opening ham, slice only what you plan to eat and tightly wrap the remaining portions. Keep ham 40°F or below at all times. Freeze for long-term storage.


Knowing refrigerator and freezer storage times can help prevent waste and foodborne illness from fully cooked ham. Unopened, a whole fully cooked ham will keep 7 days past the use-by date when consistently refrigerated below 40°F. Once opened, whole ham, slices and leftovers should be consumed within 3-5 days. For extended storage, cooked ham portions can be frozen for 1-2 months. Check ham for signs of spoilage like sliminess, foul smell or unnatural colors. Following proper storage methods for cooked ham ensures you can safely enjoy this tasty meat.