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Hams are on sale now (end date of sale 4-11). I want to bake my ham on the 16th. Seems to me I would be cutting down on "eating time" for the ham. What do you think? Thanks.

  • Is 4-11 end of sale, or end of use before/best before/expiration date? – Willem van Rumpt Apr 5 '17 at 18:10
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    Fresh ham or cured? What are the use-by dates? Why not freeze it if you're concerned (be sure to leave ample time to defrost)? – Catija Apr 5 '17 at 18:41
  • @Willem presumably that's when they revert to full price – Chris H Apr 5 '17 at 19:45
  • Diane - as you can see, several people have interpreted your question differently, because the water-cured fully-cooked hams are a mostly US-based offering, with uncooked dry-cured (equivalent of a "country" or "Virginia" ham in the US) being the offering they see in Europe. Can you clarify where you are shopping? – PoloHoleSet Apr 7 '17 at 14:27
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I don't believe it will make any difference, and here's why -

You may be buying the ham a few days earlier, and the ham may be part of a shipment that was received and stocked at a certain date, as opposed to a later date, but it's doubtful there is a significant difference in the dates that a ham on sale today, and a ham bought Wednesday next week was processed and packaged. That's a mass-produced product, with a huge bump in production near the holidays.

It's highly doubtful that the store would make a huge (with, assumed on my part, a certain volume discount or seasonal sales price) purchase of hams for the holiday, and then order more hams, not as part of that order, to be stocked before the same event/holiday.

What you will also see, depending on how well they gauged demand, is that hams will be deeply discounted a week or two after the holiday, as the remaining hams from their mass order start getting closer to the product expiration date.

Your best bet for determining how long before a holiday is (if you're not going to freeze it) looking at the "use by" date. Any pre-holiday ham sale is going to have hams with a "use by" date that goes past that holiday.

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The meaning of the date somewhat depends on whether your ham is intended to be cooked, or intended to be eaten as-is.

If it is a product intended for thorough cooking, then the expiration date can be understood as "bake by" date. The eating time is always the same, 3-5 days counted from the time you cooked your food. It doesn't matter if you cooked it on the first or last date of the expiration period of the raw meat. If the expiration date is 16th and you cook it on the 16th, you can still eat it until the 20th or so.

If this is a product intended for being eaten as-is, then the date is the latest eat-by date. So, if you have a ham expiring on the 16th, you can eat it until the 16th.

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    Most retail water-cured hams are also fully cooked, so talking about a raw meat date does not apply. We can assume that is what is being talked about because those are the kinds of hams on sale in stores right now. – PoloHoleSet Apr 6 '17 at 15:56
  • @PoloHoleSet the OP said "I want to bake my ham". If the product is intended to be cooked, then the expiration date refers to the last day on which it should be cooked, not to the last day on which it should be eaten. Your remark only matters if the OP is buying a ham which is intended to be eaten without further cooking (so the expiration date is the last day for eating it) but decides to nevertheless use the cured ham for baking. This is a pretty rare thing in my experience. – rumtscho Apr 6 '17 at 18:15
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    @rumtscho in the US it is very common for people to cook cured hams. Some mass produced cured hams have cooking instructions, even though they also state "Ready to Eat" – Debbie M. Apr 6 '17 at 19:29
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    @PoloHoleSet we don't know that the OP is in the US, certainly here in the UK whole cured hams are raw. There may be exceptions but I don't recall every seeing one that's pre-cooked. – Chris H Apr 6 '17 at 20:49
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    I too am used to cured hams being sold cooked, and the baking pretty much just being for heating through and making the outside look nice, and saw hams like this at basically every family holiday gathering growing up. In any case, it's indeed not clear whether the OP's is cooked or not, so as long as the question is open, answers should probably be clear about which case they apply to. – Cascabel Apr 6 '17 at 20:57
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By the standards of raw meats, (cured) hams often have long dates. Surprisingly long. So you would probably be ok. But you should check the date on the packaging, and go with that. You can freeze them. We often do that at Christmas as our preferred size sells out. Defrost in the fridge (might take a couple of days) before cooking.

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