How Long Can You Eat Ham After The Sell By Date?

Eating deli ham past its sell by date is a common occurrence for many people. While ham can last 1-2 weeks beyond the sell by date if stored properly, many people wonder just how long it lasts and if it’s still safe to eat As a lover of ham myself, I decided to investigate this question and provide a thorough guide on how long you can enjoy ham after the date on the package.

What is the Shelf Life of Ham?

Ham, like bacon, is a cured meat made from the hindquarters of pork. When properly stored, ham lasts the following time past its sell by date:

  • Unopened ham in the refrigerator: 1-2 weeks
  • Unopened ham in the freezer: 6-8 months
  • Opened ham in the refrigerator: 7-10 days
  • Opened ham in the freezer: 6-8 months

Curing gives ham a longer shelf life compared to fresh pork. But it still has a limited time it should be consumed by for safety and quality.

Sell By vs Expiration Dates

The date on packages of deli ham is not technically an expiration date. It’s usually a sell by date that tells the store how long to display the ham.

You can still eat deli ham for a period after the sell by date, as long as you store it properly. But you shouldn’t eat it past the expiration date printed on the package since that’s when it could become unsafe.

So make sure to check the expiration date and not just the sell by date! The expiration date will be at least a few weeks after the sell by date.

How to Know If Ham Has Gone Bad

Your senses are the best tool for knowing if ham has spoiled. Signs that deli ham has gone bad include:

  • Slimy or sticky texture
  • Dull or grey color instead of pink
  • Sour odor
  • Mold growth

If you notice any of these, it’s best to throw out the ham to avoid potential foodborne illness.

Tips for Storing Ham to Maximize Freshness

Proper storage is key for maximizing the shelf life of deli ham once opened. Here are some tips:

  • Keep ham tightly wrapped in its original packaging or an airtight container. This prevents drying out.
  • Store in the fridge immediately after use.
  • If freezing ham, use freezer bags or airtight containers.
  • Don’t store ham with other foods that could cross-contaminate like raw meat. Keep ready-to-eat meats separate.
  • Once deli ham is open, use within 3-5 days for maximum freshness.

Can You Eat Ham After the Expiration Date?

It’s generally not recommended to eat deli ham past the expiration date printed on the package. The expiration date factors in the decrease in quality over time.

However, according to the USDA, ham can still be safe to eat for an additional 1-2 weeks after the expiration date. But it may just not taste as fresh.

If you do eat expired ham, look for off smells, textures, or molds as signs it may have spoiled. Trust your senses!

For best quality, it’s better to eat or freeze ham by the expiration date. But in a pinch, ham can sometimes last longer if it was handled properly.

Freezing Ham to Extend Its Shelf Life

Freezing is a great way to significantly extend the shelf life of ham. Frozen ham remains safe to eat indefinitely, although the quality slowly declines over months.

For best results freezing deli ham:

  • Freeze ham in original packaging or airtight freezer bags. Squeeze out excess air.
  • Portion ham into usable amounts so you don’t have to repeatedly thaw/refreeze.
  • Include the sell by or expiration date on packages for reference.
  • Store at 0°F or below.

Frozen ham lasts for 6-8 months in the freezer before becoming dried out or freezer burned.

Thawing Ham Safely

Always thaw frozen ham in the refrigerator, not at room temperature where bacteria can multiply quickly. Here are some safe thawing methods:

  • Fridge thawing: Allow 1-2 days to thaw a pound of frozen ham in the refrigerator.
  • Cold water thawing: Place sealed ham package in cold water, changing water every 30 mins. Takes 2-3 hours for a pound.
  • Microwave thawing: Use the “defrost” setting in short intervals until thawed. Cook ham immediately after microwaving.

Once thawed, use ham within 3-5 days. Don’t refreeze thawed ham.

Can You Freeze Ham After the Sell By Date?

Freezing ham to extend its shelf life works even if it has passed the sell by date. As long as deli ham was stored correctly, it is safe to freeze after the sell by date.

For best quality, freeze ham within 1-2 weeks after the sell by date. Monitor for signs it may have spoiled before freezing very old ham.

The sell by date is more about quality than safety on properly handled products like cured meats. So go by your senses, not just the date when freezing old ham.

Serving Expired Ham Safely

If you want to serve deli ham that’s past its prime, take these extra precautions:

  • Check carefully for slimy textures, sour smells or mold. Don’t taste ham that seems off.
  • Cook expired ham thoroughly to 165°F to destroy harmful bacteria.
  • Avoid serving higher risk groups like children, pregnant women, elderly.
  • Discard ham after cooking if the texture seems unpalatable. Don’t taste test.

Cook expired ham in casseroles, soups, or ham salad where the flavor can be masked.

While not ideal, thoroughly cooking deli ham that’s past its prime can make it safe to eat in most cases. But when in doubt, remember it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Quick Tips on Ham Expiration

  • Unopened, properly stored ham lasts 1-2 weeks past the sell by date, or until the expiration date.
  • Opened ham lasts 3-5 days in the fridge.
  • Look for slimy texture, dull color, or sour smell as signs of spoiled ham.
  • Freeze ham for 6-8 months to extend its shelf life.
  • Store ham sealed in the fridge. Keep deli meats separate from raw meats.
  • Cook expired ham thoroughly to 165°F to kill bacteria before eating.

Don’t Waste it! Deli Meat – How long does it really last


How long can you eat ham after the use-by date?

The truth is that ham can last for weeks, months, or even years past its expiration date. However, eating ham that has been left out for too long can be dangerous, and may lead to food poisoning or other serious health issues. In general, you will be less hungry.

How can you tell if ham is spoiled?

If your ham starts to take on a green or grey hue, or even gets black or brown in a few areas, throw it away. If it doesn’t smell good, throw it away. Ham should have a salty or smokey aroma, almost sweet. If there is a sour smell or something smells off, don’t take the chance of a food-borne illness.

What does “sell by date” mean on ham?

Sell by – This creates an easy date for the retailer to know when the product has to be removed from their shelf and disposed of instead of being sold. In general, consumers have one to three days to use that meat product if it is fresh before there would be concern from a safety standpoint.

Can you eat ham after 7 days?

Now that Easter is over, you might be wondering what to do with leftover ham. Of course there are many options, but one thing you should not do is let it sit too long in the refrigerator. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ham is good for three to five days in the refrigerator after it is cooked.

How long after sell by date can you eat ham?

The length of time you can safely eat ham after the sell by date depends on whether the product is opened or unopened. If the product is unopened and still in its original packaging, it can generally be eaten 2-3 weeks past the sell-by date. Opened products should be consumed within 3-5 days of the sell-by date.

How long does a ham last after a sell-by date?

The length of time ham remains good after the sell-by date depends on various factors. From my knowledge, cooked ham can be safely consumed for about 3-4 days after the sell-by date if stored properly in the refrigerator. On the other hand, smoked or cured ham can last even longer, up to 7-10 days after the sell-by date if stored correctly.

How long does cooked ham last?

From my knowledge, cooked ham can be safely consumed for about 3-4 days after the sell-by date if stored properly in the refrigerator. On the other hand, smoked or cured ham can last even longer, up to 7-10 days after the sell-by date if stored correctly. Now, let’s talk about the difference between unopened and opened ham.

How long can you eat a cured ham?

An opened canned ham should be consumed within a week. A fresh ham–meaning one that has not been cured, smoked or pre-cooked–should be consumed within 3-5 days or frozen. It should be defrosted, cooked, and consumed within 6 months. A cured ham should be consumed within 7 days or frozen.

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