How Long To Thaw Ham

How Long To Thaw Ham

Thawing a ham is an essential step in preparing a delicious meal, and it’s crucial to do it safely to avoid any risk of foodborne illness. Whether you’re planning a holiday feast or a regular family dinner, knowing the best methods for thawing ham can make a significant difference in the outcome of your meal. Here, we’ll explore the various ways to thaw ham and provide essential tips for ensuring food safety.

Thawing Methods

When it comes to thawing a ham, there are several methods you can use, each with its own set of guidelines and precautions. Here are the most common ways to thaw a ham:

In the Refrigerator

Thawing a ham in the refrigerator is the best option for ensuring food safety. It’s recommended to allow approximately four to six hours per pound for the ham to thaw in the refrigerator. This means that a five-pound ham would require a full day of thawing in the refrigerator. Once thawed, the ham can be kept in the refrigerator for an additional three to five days before cooking.

In Cold Water

If you need to thaw the ham more quickly, you can use the cold water method. Submerge the ham in cold tap water, ensuring that the water covers the ham completely. It’s essential to change the water every 30 minutes to maintain a safe temperature. Thawing the ham using this method typically takes about 30 minutes per pound.

In a Cooler

Thawing a ham in a cooler is an alternative method that can free up space in your refrigerator. It’s important to keep the cooler in a cool environment, such as a garage or basement, and monitor the internal temperature to ensure it stays below 40 degrees F. If the temperature starts to rise, ice packs can be used to maintain the desired temperature.

In the Microwave

While not the preferred method, it is possible to thaw a ham in the microwave, especially if the ham is a smaller size. However, it’s crucial to follow the microwave’s manual for specific instructions on thawing times and power levels. Thawing the ham in the microwave should be followed immediately by cooking to ensure food safety.

What NOT to Do

It’s important to avoid certain thawing methods that can pose a risk to food safety. Thawing a ham directly on the counter at room temperature or using hot or warm water should be avoided, as these methods can encourage the growth of harmful bacteria on the surface of the ham. Additionally, leaving the ham to thaw in locations such as the garage, basement, car, outdoors, or on the porch is not recommended for food safety reasons.

Thawing Time and Cooking

The time it takes to thaw a ham will depend on the chosen method and the size of the ham. Thawing an 8 lb ham in the refrigerator can take approximately 24-48 hours, while using the cold water method may take 4-6 hours. Thawing a ham in the microwave will vary based on the specific instructions provided in the microwave’s manual.

Once the ham is fully thawed, it’s essential to cook it to the recommended internal temperature to ensure food safety. For raw ham, it should reach an internal temperature of 145°F, while precooked ham can be eaten cold or reheated to 140°F or 165°F, depending on its packaging.

Additional Resources

For more food safety tips and resources, consider exploring the Food Safety for Home Kitchens course, which offers valuable insights into safe food handling practices. You can also test your food safety knowledge by taking the “What’s Your Holiday Host Rating?” quiz. Lastly, as you plan your holiday gatherings, be sure to follow local COVID-19 safety guidelines to prioritize the health and well-being of your loved ones.


Thawing and cooking ham safely is essential for ensuring a delicious and risk-free dining experience. By following the recommended thawing methods, monitoring internal temperatures, and adhering to food safety guidelines, you can confidently prepare and enjoy a flavorful ham dish for any occasion.


1. How long will it take to thaw an 8 lb ham?

The quickest way to thaw an 8 lb ham will depend on the method you choose. On average, it can take anywhere from 24-48 hours to thaw a fully frozen ham in the refrigerator, or 4-6 hours in cold water.

2. Can I thaw an 8 lb ham in the microwave?

While it is possible to thaw a ham in the microwave, it is not recommended as it can result in uneven thawing and potentially affect the texture and flavor of the meat. It is best to use the refrigerator or cold water method for thawing.

3. How do I safely thaw an 8 lb ham in the refrigerator?

To safely thaw an 8 lb ham in the refrigerator, place it on a plate or in a bowl to catch any juices and leave it in the fridge for 24-48 hours, depending on the size of the ham. Make sure to keep the ham in its original packaging or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap to prevent any cross-contamination.

4. Can I cook an 8 lb ham while it is still partially frozen?

It is not recommended to cook an 8 lb ham while it is still partially frozen as it can result in uneven cooking and potentially lead to foodborne illness. It is best to fully thaw the ham before cooking.

5. Is it safe to thaw an 8 lb ham at room temperature?

No, it is not safe to thaw an 8 lb ham at room temperature as it can enter the “danger zone” (40°F-140°F) where bacteria can grow rapidly. Always use safe thawing methods such as the refrigerator or cold water method to avoid foodborne illness.

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