Curing a Frozen Ham: Can You Do It?

Are you wondering if you can cure a frozen ham?

Applying your own cure mixtures to pork requires a bit of work.
Stuff like maintaining safe temperatures and applying special ingredients like sodium nitrate.
The ham also requires some basic preparation, especially if it’s frozen.


Can You Cure A Frozen Ham?

You can’t apply any type of cure to frozen meat.
We recommend completely thawing the ham before applying a curing solution!

Why You Can’t Cure a Frozen Ham

A brine solution will not penetrate through hard frozen meat proteins.

Did you know the average moisture content in pork is 60%?

When the water freezes it becomes hard and expands.
This blocks out the chemical reactions needed from a curing mixture.

When meat is defrosted the water liquifies to give a malleable texture to the meat.

And acts as a vessel to carry the curing ingredients deep into the ham.

Can You Cure Part-Frozen Ham?

Technically, you can start applying wet and dry brine to part-frozen ham.
But this can cause a higher level of bacterial growth if kept at ambient temperatures.
It is always better to lower the risk when preparing raw products.
Which is why I don’t recommend curing part-frozen ham.

Tip: always use a meat thermometer to monitor internal temperatures accurately.

Can You Cure Defrosted Ham?

You can cure fully defrosted ham the same way you would if it was fresh.

Read further for more about the curing process.


What Does The Curing Process Do For Ham?

Brine curing is a popular method for pork shoulder, legs, and belly.

Think of your favorite bacon recipe, deli lunch meat ham, or fancy serrano ham.

These types of cured ham and more are widely enjoyed in all cultures.
But what exactly does the curing process do?


Makes the Ham Safe to Eat

Some varieties of cured ham are sold as ready-to-eat products.

Nitrates and salt added to a cure will prevent mound growth or nasty microbial growth.


Curing is literally an ancient process used to preserve meat before electricity.

Salt creates osmosis within the meat proteins.
This is when the moisture is drawn out and then blocks reabsorption.

Bacteria thrive in moisture and by reducing it,  you slow the ham from rotting.

Color Development

Ever wonder how store-bought ham has a deep pink color?

Sodium nitrite in the cure reacts with a protein in the meat called myoglobin.

The reaction creates nitric oxide and through the power of science, turns the meat pink.

Enhances Flavor

A chemical reaction between the salt and enzymes concentrates flavor compounds.
Concentrated ham flavor 

What Are the Ingredients You Use for Curing Ham?

We’ve covered salt for flavor and nitrates to kill off bad bacteria.

What are the other likely ingredients in a cure for ham?

– Brown sugar or cane sugar (flavor & color)

– Sodium chloride (flavor & salt reduction)

– Pink salt (flavor & color)

– Liquid smoke (flavor & color) If want to add a natural smoke flavor, you can follow my smoked ham recipe here, it is fine to cure your ham first.


The Different Types of Curing

Wet Cure

The cure ingredients and flavorings are dissolved in water before being injected into the meat.

Dry Cure

The cure ingredients cover the outer layer of the ham.

The meat is then left to air dry while the cure permeates the meat. 

What Is Best for Defrosted Frozen Ham?

Both types of cure can be applied to a defrosted ham.

But consider the size of the ham you are curing.
A wet cure is applied to reach deeper into larger cuts.
While a dry cure is better for medium size hams.

If your ham isnt going to be defrosted in time and you want you the ham flavor, you can use a ham flavor packet.


Safety Advice When Defrosting & Curing Ham

– Cure ham that is fully defrosted.

– Thaw refrigerated or in cold water.

– Wear gloves when handling nitrates.

– Use a meat thermometer to measure the internal temperatures.

– Pay attention to surfaces that have had contact with raw meat.

– Clean down contaminated areas thoroughly with warm soapy water.


Smoke On!


Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).

I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling recipes with you!

You can read more about me on our About Us page.

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