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Slimy Ham: Everything You Need To Know To Prevent It

If you are a habitual deli or cured meat-eater, you probably noticed how they create a jelly film after it rests in the fridge for some time.

There are multiple reasons behind this wet layer that coats each slice of a few days old deli meats, like ham.

It can be that the product has been open for a little too long. Or it is possible that bacteria has started to spread on the meat, causing the slime on top.

There can be more serious, even dangerous reasons that turn your ham into a slimy mess. And unlike other foods that are slimy but are not particularly harmful (like slimy carrots for example), slimy ham can be quite hazardous.

Why is your ham slimy?

Ham can be slimy for various reasons. First of all, it can be a harmless film produced by the fat in the deli meat. The fat in the meat leaks out and congeal, and the result will be having slimy lunch meat laying around inside your fridge.

Another reason could be that the shop where you got your deli meat from used an already open piece of meat. It is not an unusual practice to give customers a cut of a not-so-fresh piece of meat, especially if it is a cut that is not sold as often.

Either that, or it is bad refrigeration, both on your part or the Deli shop. It could be that on the journey from the factory to the shop, or from the shop to your house, the deli meat went through a pretty rough temperature change.

This change quickened the rotting process in the meat, ending up in slimy deli meat. Or it is also possible the ham was already bad when it left the factory. It is not something that happens often, but nothing is impossible.

In the present climate, factories maintain incredibly high standards before allowing their products to leave their headquarters. Hence, it is quite difficult to think your deli meat was already off, but you may have just run out of luck at this time.

How can you tell if your ham is spoiled?

Either way, once you find out that there is slime on your ham, you will know it has been sitting inside your fridge for too long. It’s time to use it or get rid of it.

If you bought your deli meat a day or two prior to your slimy discovery, double-check the meat for a few key points:

  1. First of all, check if the deli meat smells differently. If it smells rotten, or the smell changed since the last time you got it, get rid of it.
  2. When you perceive a slight change in color, that is also a sign that your deli meat has gone off and is not edible anymore.
  3. If you observe green-ish areas in the meat, that is your final signal to toss it away.

Once it changes color and smell, the deli meat is not safe for consumption anymore. It could actually constitute an extremely critical threat to people’s health so make sure to throw it away in the rightful recycling bin.

What is the slime on ham?

The slime that forms on your ham or any other type of deli meat is most likely to be fat.

After a few days open, laying around in your fridge, deli meat starts its rotting process. Therefore, the fat that is inside the meat begins to melt, and it leaks out.

As it is standard practice to keep several slices of ham/deli meat in the same package, the fat starts to seep through. This fat sticks the meat slices together, making them bond with one another.

The incredibly close proximity between each slice quickens the diffusion of the slime throughout the whole product.

This happens with any kind of deli meat, but the process is even more rapid with turkey. This type of deli meat does not contain sodium nitrate (typically contained in every other type of deli meat, including ham).

The absence of this component allows turkey meat to go off quicker than any other type of deli meat. Even if you stored it properly in the fridge.

How to get rid of the slime on ham

As long as the look and smell of your deli meat have not changed, and the meat is not excessively slimy, it is still relatively safe to eat.

For example, you got a whole ham from your local deli shop and stored it in the fridge as soon as you got home.

A few days go by, and by the time you take your ham out of the fridge, you notice something is wrong. The whole ham is slimy but smells fine. And it looks fine too.

As a result, if everything seems alright to you, it is fairly safe to say it is still edible. Simply proceed with your recipe, add seasoning and the rest of the ingredients and cook it at an elevated temperature.

It is recommendable to cook it in the oven, as the high heat will stop any more slime from spreading further around the ham.

The ham will come out of the oven perfectly fine, and it will taste incredible as always

How to keep your ham from getting slimy

Honestly speaking, there is not much to do after your ham (or any other type of deli meat for that matter) gets slimy.

There are a few things you can do to prevent your deli meat from getting slimy. That’s to say, prior to actually buying it from the store, though.

1. Check your meat carefully

One thing you can do is to check the piece of meat yourself at the deli store. It might sound like an odd request, but it’s the best way to ensure you take the best possible cut of deli meat home with you.

Being able to see up close and smell the piece of meat at the deli meat counter can represent a big step towards avoiding getting slimy deli meat fast.

If you cannot detect any signs of rotting or if you cannot smell anything foul from your side of the counter, then it is likely the meat is perfectly fine to buy.

2. Ask for the popular cut

Obviously, getting to double-check the meat at the shop is not always possible, so there are other ways to avoid getting slimy ham.

One thing that can be relatively limiting, but that will make sure you get the best cut every time is to ask for the popular option.

So look for the general kind of ham, or turkey or pastrami, and ask for that. If the demand for that product is high, it’s likely that a new cut of meat is opened often.

Therefore, it will be less likely to find a piece of meat that is sitting there, opened for a long time if it is the go-to option for lots of customers.

3. Go during busy hours

Another way to ensure you will get the most recent cut of meat at your local deli shop is to go during busy hours.

It is understandable that it is an unusual piece of advice to give. Your life is already pretty hectic without having to stand in line at the deli meat counter, waiting for your turn.

Going during peak times will allow you to get the freshest cut of meat that will last a little bit longer in your fridge.

This process will make you wait in line a little longer, but it will prevent you from having slimy smoked ham the day after you got it. 

Is slimy ham okay to eat?

Slimy ham is okay to eat only on certain occasions. If you are about to cook a delicious meal, and you notice your spiral ham got slimy, check its smell and its look.

Always rely on your senses in these situations. It is absolutely fine to prepare and consume slimy ham if it smells okay and if it looks normal to you.

Just go on with your recipe as you always have and cook it at a high temperature. That will kill any sliminess and bacteria, thus preventing it from spreading even further.

Avoid eating slimy deli meat on its own without reheating it first. The heat will make sure to get rid of the sliminess, and it will get rid of the bacteria formed on the meat slices while in the fridge.

If your deli meat presents green spots, or even more critical, moldy areas, throw it away immediately. The presence of green and moldy areas means your meat has gone off, no matter when you bought it.

If it smells a little gross, but it still looks okay, it still is not safe to eat. The smell is an enormous part of any product, especially when meat (or dairy) is involved.

So if your deli meat smells like something is off, or if it smells rotten, throw it away. Even if it still looks moderately good to you, the rotting process is ongoing, meaning it is not safe for human consumption anymore.

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Passionate chef, in love with everything related to food and cooking it to perfection!
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