How Long Will a Ham Bone Last in the Freezer? Storing Tips for Maximum Freshness

After a delicious holiday or Sunday ham dinner, you’re often left with a very useful leftover – the ham bone. Simmering it makes rich, flavored ham stock perfect for soups, stews, beans, grains, and more. But to unlock its full potential, proper storage is key. So how long does a ham bone last in the freezer?

With the right freezing and defrosting methods, a ham bone can last 3-6 months in the freezer. This preserves the meaty flavors to add depth and savor to future dishes. Follow these tips to freeze your ham bone and use it while it’s at peak quality.

Storing Ham Safely Before Freezing

The first step is safely storing the leftover cooked ham before you separate the meat and bone. According to USDA guidelines:

  • Refrigerate cooked ham within 2 hours of coming off the heat.

  • Store ham in shallow airtight containers to allow for rapid cooling

  • Use ham within 3-4 days for optimum freshness and food safety

Once you’re ready to freeze the bone, remove all edible ham pieces first. Reserve them for sandwiches, omelets, salads, and other uses over the next few days.

How to Prep and Freeze a Ham Bone

Freezing locks in the ham bone’s flavors and aromas at their freshest. Follow these steps for preparing and freezing:

  • Wash the bone thoroughly with cold water to remove debris.

  • Pat the bone dry with paper towels or let air dry. Moisture leads to freezer burn.

  • Place the bone in a freezer bag, pressing out excess air. A vacuum sealer is ideal for an airtight seal.

  • Label bag with contents and freeze-by date 3-6 months out.

  • Freeze bone immediately at 0°F or colder. Use within recommended timeframe for best quality.

Proper freezing preserves nutrients in the bone that will infuse your stock, broth, or beans.

How Long Does a Frozen Ham Bone Last?

A high-quality ham bone frozen properly in an airtight container or bag will last:

  • 3 months – Optimal flavor and freshness

  • 6 months – Good condition if sealed correctly with minimal air

  • 12 months – Possible but not recommended; drying and freezer burn likely

For best results, use frozen ham bones within 3-6 months. The natural fats and moisture help create richer stock. Beyond 6 months, the bone may impart some flavor but yields and quality decline.

Always inspect the bone after defrosting – discard if dried out or rancid. Trust your nose!

Defrosting a Frozen Ham Bone Safely

Don’t be tempted to toss a frozen ham bone straight into your slow cooker or soup pot! Defrost it first in the refrigerator:

  • Place frozen ham bone in a bowl to contain drips as it defrosts.

  • Allow 12-24 hours for a typical 1-2 lb bone to fully defrost.

  • Once thawed, inspect condition. If severely dried or smells off, discard.

  • Cook immediately after defrosting for food safety.

Microwaving can speed up defrosting but may cook the outer areas of the bone. For best flavor extraction, defrost in the fridge then use immediately.

Simmering a Ham Bone for Rich Stock

The secret’s in the simmer! Follow these tips for coaxing the most flavor from your ham bone:

  • Place bone in a large pot and add water or broth to cover.

  • Bring to a boil then reduce to a gentle simmer.

  • Simmer 3-4 hours, skimming any scum that rises to the top.

  • Add aromatics like onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and herbs in the last hour.

  • Cool, strain, and debone the stock. Discard bone remnants.

  • Refrigerate stock for 3-4 days or freeze in airtight containers for 4-6 months.

Low, gentle heat extracts the bone’s essences without clouding the stock. Use as the base for hearty bean soups, risotto, stew, and more!

Ideas for Using Ham Stock

Homemade ham stock adds a savory depth unlike anything from a store-bought carton or cube. Here are some flavorful ways to use it:

  • Bean or lentil soup
  • Split pea soup
  • Ham and potato chowder
  • Vegetable barley stew
  • Collard greens or kale
  • Ham and corn chowder
  • Risotto
  • Rice or quinoa
  • Simmered greens beans
  • Braised cabbage
  • Lentil salad dressing

For an extra ham flavor punch, dice any leftover cooked ham and add it to your dishes along with the stock.

Storing and Reheating Leftover Ham Stock

Proper storage preserves your stock’s freshness:

  • Refrigerate stock for 3-4 days in a sealed container.

  • Freeze for 4-6 months in airtight freezer bags or containers.

  • When reheating, bring just to a simmer to preserve flavors.

Avoid prolonged boiling or microwaving that can degrade the stock’s quality. Gentle reheating retains the nuanced ham essence.

Get the Most Out of Your Holiday Ham Bone

With proper freezing and storage, you can enjoy the flavors of your holiday ham for months after the initial meal. Use this guide to maximize your ham bone’s shelf life and transform it into the key ingredient for nourishing soups, grains, beans, and more. A little planning lets you double your ham’s value – now that’s worth celebrating!

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 long do bones last in the freezer?

Beef bones can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days or frozen for up to three months. When storing bones in the freezer, it is best to wrap them in a layer of plastic or aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn.

How long can a ham stay in the freezer and still be good?

Freezer [0°F (-18°C) or below]
Fresh, uncured, uncooked
6 months
Fresh, uncured, cooked
3 to 4 months
Cured, cook-before-eating, uncooked
3 to 4 months
Fully-cooked, vacuum-sealed at plant, unopened
1 to 2 months

How long can you keep ham on the bone?

Christmas ham stored in the fridge, either on the bone or carved off and wrapped in plastic and foil, will keep perfectly well for up to two weeks. Ham wrapped in plastic and foil and then frozen will last in the freezer for up to a month.

How long can a ham bone stay in the freezer?

A ham bone will keep in the freezer for at least a few months. That buys you some time to make full use of it and you have a few days to properly prepare it for long-term storage. It’s important that you keep any leftover ham refrigerated at all times.

Is ham gluten free?

Ham naturally by itself is gluten-free. Although, many companies made their ham with gluten-containing ingredients like broth, spices, and glazes. So, you must prefer brands that indicate they are gluten-free on the packaging.

Can ham bone be refrigerated?

It’s not recommended to store the ham bone in the refrigerator without any packaging. This can lead to contamination and spoilage. It’s best to wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or place it in an airtight container to maintain its freshness.

How long does ham bone last?

While it’s best to use the ham bone within 6 months for optimal flavor, it can still be safe to use after this period. Make sure to thaw it in the refrigerator and inspect it for any signs of spoilage before using it in recipes.

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