How Long Does Ham Hock Last in the Freezer? The Complete Guide

Ham hocks are an incredibly versatile and flavorful cut of meat that can add richness and depth to soups, beans, greens, and other dishes However, like any meat, ham hocks don’t last forever Knowing how to store ham hocks properly and how long they last can help prevent waste and ensure safety.

In this complete guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about freezing ham hocks and how long they last in the freezer.

What are Ham Hocks?

Ham hocks are the lower portion of a pig’s hind leg, specifically the ankle joint. They consist mostly of skin, fat, cartilage, and bone.

Ham hocks are often cured, smoked, or both, giving them an intense, smoky, salty, and slightly sweet ham flavor However, fresh uncured ham hocks are also available.

The rich, meaty flavor ham hocks impart makes them a soul food staple, especially for seasoning beans, greens, soups, and stews. They add a smoky depth and help thicken the cooking liquid.

Freezing Ham Hocks

Freezing is an excellent way to extend the shelf life of ham hocks while preserving flavor and quality. Here are some tips for freezing ham hocks:

  • Freeze ham hocks as soon as possible after purchasing for maximum freshness.

  • Rinse ham hocks and pat dry thoroughly before freezing. Any moisture or liquid could lead to freezer burn.

  • Wrap each ham hock very tightly in plastic wrap, butcher paper, or aluminum foil. Make sure there are no air pockets.

  • Place wrapped ham hocks in an airtight freezer bag or container. Squeeze out excess air before sealing.

  • Label the package with the type and number of ham hocks and freeze-by date.

  • Arrange ham hocks in a single layer in the freezer until frozen solid, then stack. This prevents them from freezing into a solid clump.

  • For best quality, freeze ham hocks at 0°F or below.

Follow these steps and ham hocks can be frozen for several months with minimal impact on flavor or texture.

How Long Do Ham Hocks Last in the Freezer?

When stored properly in the freezer, ham hocks can last for the following times:

  • Fresh uncured ham hocks: 4-6 months

  • Cured ham hocks: 6-9 months

  • Smoked ham hocks: 9-12 months

Curing and smoking significantly extend the freezer life of ham hocks due to the salts and smoke compounds. A frozen smoked ham hock can keep for up to a year before the quality starts to decline.

Portioned ham hock meat will last approximately 3-4 months in the freezer.

As with any frozen meat, ham hocks that are improperly wrapped or stored at higher temperatures may not last as long. Check periodically for signs of freezer burn, odor, or other spoilage.

For best quality and food safety, use frozen ham hocks within these recommended time frames. If ham hocks have been in the freezer longer, it’s best to throw them out.

How to Thaw Ham Hocks

Always thaw frozen ham hocks properly before cooking. There are a few methods:

  • Refrigerator Thawing: Place frozen ham hocks in a bowl or pan in the refrigerator. Allow 1-2 days for a package of hocks to fully thaw. This is the safest thawing method.

  • Cold Water Thawing: Submerge sealed ham hock package in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. Small packages may thaw in 1-2 hours. Larger amounts may take 3-4 hours. Cook ham hocks immediately after thawing.

  • Microwave Thawing: Use the defrost setting in short increments to gradually thaw ham hocks, flipping occasionally. Cook immediately after thawing.

  • Cooking Frozen: Ham hocks can be cooked from frozen state, but it will take 50-100% longer cooking time. Make sure the interior is cooked to safe temperatures.

Always cook thawed ham hocks within 1-2 days and do not refreeze raw ham hocks after thawing.

How to Use Frozen Ham Hocks

Frozen ham hocks can be used in all the same ways as fresh – simmered in beans, braised greens, soups, stews, and more.

Most recipes call for simmering ham hocks for 1-3 hours to tenderize and impart flavor. Thawed ham hocks will need the full simmering time. Frozen hocks require longer simmering, so add extra time if starting from frozen state.

If a recipe calls for cooked, chopped ham hock meat, thaw and simmer hocks first before removing meat from the bones.

Here are some delicious ways to use frozen ham hocks:

  • Split Pea Soup – Simmer hocks for 2-3 hours until tender.

  • Red Beans and Rice – Boil beans with hocks for rich flavor.

  • Collard Greens – Braise hocks and greens together.

  • Navy Bean Stew – Thaw hocks and simmer in stew for 1-2 hours.

  • Ham Hock Broth – Make flavorful bean or veggie soup broth.

  • Hoppin’ John – Season black-eyed peas and rice.

  • Potato Soup – Use ham hock meat to flavor hearty potato soup.

With proper freezing and thawing, frozen ham hocks can be substituted in any recipe calling for fresh. Adjust cooking times as needed.

Ham Hock Storage Tips

  • Always store ham hocks tightly wrapped or in sealed containers in the coldest part of the freezer, close to 0°F if possible.

  • Avoid overstuffing the freezer, as this slows down air circulation and raises the temperature.

  • Use ham hocks within recommended freezer time frames for best quality and food safety.

  • If freezer space is limited, consider canning ham hocks in broth for shelf-stable pantry storage. Pressure canning is required.

  • Store ham hock meat drained in sealed freezer bags up to 4 months.

  • Prevent freezer burn by eliminating air pockets when wrapping ham hocks and using moisture-proof materials like foil.

  • Label packages with contents and dates so you know what’s in the freezer and how ol

How long can a thawed cooked ham stay in the fridge?


Is a 2 year old frozen ham still good?

An uncooked, cut country ham can be refrigerated for two to three months or frozen for one month. A cooked Country Ham should be refrigerated for seven days and or frozen for one month. Freezer storage time is for quality only. Frozen hams remain safe indefinitely.

How to tell if ham hock has gone bad?

Ham is bad if it smells off, develops discoloration, or begins to feel sweaty or slimy. Store ham in the fridge by wrapping it in foil, butcher paper, or plastic wrap. Alternatively, you can use an airtight container or freezer bag and set it in the fridge.

Can a ham bone go bad in the freezer?

For best results, try to use your frozen ham bone within three months. There may be some loss of flavor if you keep it longer, and any bits of meat and cartilage remaining on it may get freezer burn or dry out.

How long does ham stock last in the freezer?

Ham stock can be refrigerated, covered, for up to one week or stored in the freezer for up to three months. If freezing, it is best to store your stock in smaller portions so that you only thaw what you need. Quart-sized freezer storage bags or glass jars work great.

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