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Oct 3, 2007 05:51 AM

Am I Going to Kill My Dinner Guests?

Or is the ham that has been in the back of my freezer since April safe to use? It's still in the plastic packaging.

If it is, how long would a 15 pound ham take to defrost?

Thank you!

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  1. Your ham is fine. I'd plan on letting it defrost in the fridge for three days.

    8 Replies
    1. re: pikawicca

      Actually, I just read somewhere that immersing your ham into a cold water bath with a steady, slow stream of cold water is the best way to defrost frozen protein. Three days in the fridge allows bacteria to set in.

      1. re: Trixie Too

        Don't know where you read that, but I remember an episode of Good Eats that said the same thing. As a matter of personal experience, when I don't have time to defrost things in the fridge, the cold water with steady stream is surprisingly good and quick. I don't know how quickly it would take for 15 lbs of protein to defrost since I usually only deal with a few lbs, but it never takes me more than 15 minutes, usually less, so I guess the OP can guess from there.

        1. re: Trixie Too

          A steady stream of cold water seems like a huge waste of water to me, but I defrost almost all of my meat in a sink full of cold water, and it works great...

          1. re: fearlessemily

            The slight stream of water improves the circulation *much* more and you defrost a lot faster.. You put the item in a deep bowl, and leave the sink to drain.

            1. re: Karl S

              And for something as large as a whole ham that will take a long time to defrost, you also seriously risk the sink's water temperature getting too high, after the out layer of the ham has defrosted but the interior, now well insulated from the surface, is still frozen. (And anyone who doesn't believe that should keep an eye on the sink water temp with a thermometer!) If you're willing to risk that, you might as well just let it sit out for a few hours then stick it in the fridge to finish defrosting. Not very safe, but safer than leaving a whole ham in a sink of water. In a 55 gallon drum, maybe...

            2. re: fearlessemily

              If you cannot sacrifice the sink for a few hours, throw it in a bucket and under the stream tub faucet. Great for packaged emats (turkey, ham, etc)

              1. re: stellamystar

                all you need is a disposal, some veggies and a peeler and you have Kramer in a Seinfeld episode.


              2. re: fearlessemily

                Yeah, not to sound like a whiner, but running water into a sink for the whole time it'd take for a ham to defrost seems like a REALLY BIG waste of water.

                I agree with the immersion in the full sink of water. So what if it takes longer.....

          2. It's safe, but it is not fresh.

            While ham is a preserved meat, it was not intended to be frozen for 6 months. There are sources on the 'net that suggest a limit of 3 months for ham.

            Buy another ham for your guests.

            12 Replies
            1. re: FrankJBN

              Agree with Frank.
              You are not going to kill them, but you probably won't be proud of what you put ont he table.
              Why go to all that trouble (and expense) to put together an exquisite meal and have it be less than the best?

              1. re: bgavin

                I am 100% with bgavin and Frank...there is not a lot of point in trying to "save" ham. It is not a meat that is enhanced by freezing in the first place (something about ice cystals and dense protein). I would use it up in chunks to flavour beans and lentils and forget about serving it as a centre-piece for guests.

                I was also a little taken aback that 15 pounds of solidly frozen protein could be thawed by running cold water on it for 15 minutes...that can't be right, can it?

                1. re: LJS

                  I think that was meant as a point of reference for a much smaller piece of meat...

                2. re: bgavin

                  Oh it won't be that bad--just made delicious osso bucco from veal shanks that I bought in '04 and happened to discover nesting in the back of the freezer. Plus what is she going to do with a 15 lb ham if she doesn't serve it to guests? Dorothy Parker's definition of eternity was 2 people and a ham.

                    1. re: whs

                      you cooked and ate three year old frozen food. you are a true gambler in the eating category.


                      1. re: jfood

                        and lived to tell the tale...did get rid of all the stuff from the 90's though.

                        1. re: jfood

                          From a taste perspective perhaps, from a food safety standpoint, not at all unless it's a crappy freezer or the food was de/re-frosted multiple times...

                    2. re: FrankJBN

                      But a lot of the sources are based on very conservative FDA-food service guidelines. It really depends on how cold the freezer was and how much the temperatures varied. It also depends on how wet/moist the ham is. Vacuum packing does help a lot.

                      1. re: Karl S

                        The internet source I noted was not the reason for my advice, it just supports it.

                        Do you believe that a ham frozen in original packing for 6 months will be in its best condition, as good as it was when bought?

                        If your answer is no, do you believe one should serve dinner guests food that one knows to be not in its best condition?

                        1. re: FrankJBN

                          If one or more of the dinner guests has ever saved your life, definitely not ;)

                          1. re: FrankJBN

                            I believe it's possible it's quite fine. It all depends on the specifics. I don't reject it out of hand.

                        1. re: mojoeater

                          I agree - and if it ends up looking odd (freezer burn or something) make an omelette or pea soup. yum

                          1. re: stellamystar

                            ........and if you plan on making an omlette, you better hit the hen house early!

                            An omlette with fifteen pounds of ham, will be quite an omlette!

                        2. Thanks everyone - I think I will make it and see what happens. If nothing else, I'll make extra macaroni and cheese, just in case. The cooking method that I use should be pretty good for it. The Filipino ladies my mom works with gave her the recipe. I'll boil the ham for an hour or 2 in pineapple juice and beer, then put it in the oven with brown sugar on it for about 45 minutes.

                          It's been in the back of our very cold freezer, and it is vacuum sealed. That, combined with cooking the heck out of it, should make it okay.

                          In addition, most of our friends that are coming are not chowhounds. They will be happy to get something home-cooked and not out of a box! I might be more careful with pickier people, or in-laws. :)

                          Thanks, everyone!

                          5 Replies
                            1. re: stephiehun

                              Don't boil the ham, keep it below a boil, around 180-190 degrees, otherwise the violence of the boiling water will cause the meat to toughen up, and be dry and inedible.

                              1. re: stephiehun

                                It's been in the back of our very cold freezer [for six months], and it is vacuum sealed. That, combined with cooking the heck out of it,...


                                1. re: FrankJBN

                                  Brandon's's easy to overcook a ham. And six months vacuum sealed - sheesh. People,'s fine to use, although you will indeed want to check for freezer burn. (What on earth do you think is going to grow on the food in the cold and the dark? I understand very well the danger of all sorts of bacterial infestations, chemical contaminations and more...but we americans act like...I'm gonna stop right there, right after I note that the poster who cooked osso bucco from a packet of shanks from '04 was right - freezer burn, to eat...also probably)

                                2. re: stephiehun

                                  Just remember, that even though you are boiling the meat, you want it to be defrosted before you start whichever way you decide to defrost it.

                                3. Just for an update:
                                  The ham defrosted overnight in a sink of cold water. It was fine - the water stayed very cold - not even up to room temperature.
                                  No illnesses to report. The ham got a little dry, but it was my fault for not timing dinner correctly. I think it sat too long out of the pineapple juice/ beer before I put it in the oven. It still tasted very good, and everyone enjoyed it.

                                  All in all, a very successful dinner party. Thank you for all your input!