How to Freeze a Ham Bone for Later Use

Don't Toss the Bone -- Save it for Soup or Broth

Man carving a cooked ham
Carving a cooked ham on the bone. Getty Images/Jerry Young

When you've served the holiday ham, do you need to use the ham bone immediately or can you freeze it? The simple answer is yes, you can freeze the ham bone and use it later to make soup, stock or ham broth. While you could make any of those within a few days of serving the ham, it takes the pressure off to freeze the ham bone and deal with it later.

Precautions About the Ham Bone

Keep your ham refrigerated at all times.

Follow the guidelines for meat leftovers from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and freeze leftover ham and the ham bone by the third day after it has been cooked and served. Cut the remaining ham from the bone to freeze separately for use in other dishes. It's okay if you aren't able to get all the ham off the bone. It'll add flavor to your soup or broth.

How to Freeze a Ham Bone

Place your ham bone in a freezer bag, and make sure the top is well-sealed. You can use a vacuum bag, if you prefer.  Just be sure the bag isn't punctured by any of the sharp edges of the bone. Label the package with its contents, "Ham bone," and the date. Otherwise, it may be impossible to guess exactly what it is and whether it has been in your freezer for months or years.

Place the ham bone in the freezer with enough space around it to ensure it freezes quickly.

For the 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.

Using the Frozen Ham Bone

When you're ready to use your ham bone, let it defrost in the refrigerator overnight before tossing it into the pot with the other ingredients.

Otherwise, it's basically a large ice cube that could keep the other ingredients in the temperature danger zone long enough for bacteria to multiply. 

Do Not Give the Ham Bone to Your Dog

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises against giving a ham bone or bones from roast beef to your dog after the holiday feast. They are a risk for problems that include choking, blocking the digestive tract, vomiting, diarrhea and wounds to the mouth. A cooked bone may be brittle and shatter, with the shards causing many problems. If you decide to discard the bone before or after you have frozen it, ensure it is secured in the trash, so your pet can't get access to it.

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