how to prepare canned ham, canned ham recipes, canned ham brands

I never did like the idea of ham in a can. The last thing I wanted to add to my pantry was more processed food. I tend to take my food fresh; but herein lay the problem that sparked a change in me. It was the hassle that came with preparing a meal from fresh ingredients that made me turn to canned ham.

I could vividly remember that I was craving ham sandwich. As we all know, a craving is your body telling you what it needs. Try as I might, though, I could not rustle up the right stuff — until I saw it. It was a bit of a last resort, but I decided to extract from the cupboard a canned ham.

I didn’t feel very proud of myself, but my stomach didn’t care. This needed to happen, and to my surprise, I kind of liked it. So changed was my opinion that I tend to grab a can or two once every few months for that easy, salty fix.

Over the years, I have tried many canned ham products, and I can say for sure that not all of them are terrible. Here are the best brands of canned ham and three amazing ways to use them.

Canned ham – facts that matter

There are two kinds of canned ham. There’s the one that is usually stored in the shelf (shelf-stable), and the other one, stored in the refrigerator.

The shelf stored canned ham lasts about two years, provided it is kept at room temperature. The meat is sterilized in the can during processing. You can find this ham in two basic sizes: there’s the family-size pack known as the “pear-shaped can” (pear-shaped in the sense that it has a flat bottom with a rounded top), and then there’s the slightly larger one called the “Pullman can”. 

preserved meat, tinned meatHams stored in the refrigerator last about six to nine months. They are not sterilized like the shelf-stable ham but are instead pasteurized.

Canned ham is usually boneless. It can come in the form of a whole piece or from multiple pieces of meat molded together to form one big piece. Large canned ham usually tends to hold one bigger piece of meat.

During the packaging process, the manufacturer adds dry gelatin into the can before placing the ham into it and sealing it. They then seal the tin and cook it in steam. In the cooking process of the ham, juices from it mix thoroughly with the gelatin. This mixture forms a rather salty and cloudy jelly as the tin cools. The can also contracts during heating, which creates a vacuum, meaning there’s no oxygen to spoil the meat.

The jelly creates cushion for the ham during handling.

The net weight of a canned ham usually includes the jelly and excludes the tin. About 60% of tins come with a small key for opening. Be mindful of the sharp edges to prevent injury. Gelatin comes gushing out when it is opened, so it’s a good idea to keep the tin on a plate when opening it. After that, it suffices to drain the gelatin and scrape or rinse it from the meat.  

Once the ham is removed from the tin, it is best served at room temperature or heated. Caution: don’t heat the ham in an unopened tin; it may result in an explosion.

3 awesome ways to use canned ham

baking meat, baking meat recipes

Before we break down how to find a good brand of canned ham, it would help to know the best methods of preparation. There are so many possibilities, but for brevity’s sake, here are three.

Baking canned ham

One of the easiest ways to prepare your ham is by baking it. To do this, simply drizzle the ham with your favorite glaze. Then, bake for some minutes until the ham is warmed through or completely caramelized in the sauce. 

If the ham comes in sauce already, then there’s no need to add anything extra. Otherwise, we recommend getting a sauce that blends perfectly with the ham’s seasoning. For instance, if you’ve got hickory honey ham, which is sweet and smoky already, then avoid an elaborate sauce with a bunch of flavors.

Another way of baking the ham is to wrap it in prepared bread dough before baking it. The dough soaks up the juice, creating an excellent hangover cure.

Using it as steaks

Prepare some canned ham by turning it into small steaks. Simply slice the ham into small steaks and fry them up! This makes for a fine addition to breakfast and brunch dishes, as it serves as a nice alternative to bacon.

noodles with ham, recipes with hamFor a more extravagant dish, cover it in a savory glaze, or better yet, prepare a creamy plain sauce with cheese and mustard. If the ham is of good quality, as in the kind made from as few pieces of meat as possible, slice it diagonally along the grain so that it becomes tender. 

As an ingredient

If the ham happens to be the low-quality type, its textures and flavor won’t be enough to carry an entire meal. There’s no need to worry, though, as there are quite a lot of cheap canned ham recipes that can save dinner. It helps that they are economical and easy to prepare.

Best canned ham – 4 good brands you can buy  

You have arrived: read on to find out the canned ham brands you shouldn’t think twice about.

Spam canned ham

spam meat, what is spam meat

Everybody knows Spam canned ham. They’ve been in the meat business for a very long time. But have you ever opened it up? In terms of appearance, it looks completely firm and solid with no form of oil rings and fat deposits whatsoever. Just a solid slab of ham.

The Spam canned ham has such an awesome taste that it’s no wonder it’s so famous. Though salty, the taste comes close enough to actual ham to fool anybody. In terms of texture, it feels like real meat, if somewhat oily.  Upon opening the can, you might notice an aroma, but don’t let it deter you from a great can of Spam ham.

To make things even more convenient, the can has a pop-top that is easily peeled off. Face it: you’ve always been curious about what wonders lay inside that ubiquitous can. Well, maybe it’s time to find out.

Armor canned ham

Armor Golden Star ham, commonly known as the Armor canned ham 5lb, stands with Spam as a trusted canned ham brand. Those with a big family to feed look no further, as their bulk sizes leave no man, woman or child hungry. A company with history, they are known for making some of the best canned ham. Their Golden Star ham offers center cuts in convenient sizes.

It comes in 3,5 and 8 lb. sizes and has an easy to open zip-top.

armor meat, armor brandJust like every other canned ham, they are vacuum-sealed in metal containers and can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a year. The refrigerator storage means that this ham is pasteurized. When opened, simply wrap the left-over portion in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to one week. Avoid freezing it, as this may alter its flavor and texture. 

This ham comes fully-cooked and boneless; don’t confuse them with the Armor pork shoulder picnics despite their similar shape and flavor.

Armor prides itself on an iron-clad reputation, proven in can after can of Golden Star ham.

DAK or Danish canned ham

As the name suggests, this Danish canned ham originated in Denmark. DAK bears a flavor and texture similar to Spam, albeit with less saltiness. It can get very tender, especially when heated.

In a controversial move, DAK allows gelatin to penetrate deep into the meat, thereby making it quite easy to season. It is super easy to prepare and uses a pull tab instead of the usual can opener — the one caveat being that pull-tab openers allow gas into the ham, thereby reducing its shelf life.  

Hormel smoked canned ham

Last but not least, we’ve got the Hormel canned ham. Another juggernaut of the ham industry.

For a fine high-quality ham, look no further. Hormel is soft, supple, smells great and tastes great. In terms of texture, it can get a bit rubbery, but this is a non-issue when taking taste into account. It has all the qualities of a properly cooked canned ham. Hormel even ships a large canned ham in a pear-shaped container, which can be stored in the pantry for up to two years.  


Deciding on a quality canned ham can be difficult, especially if you have no idea what each brand is like. Knowing how to prepare this ham and getting the best out of it takes experience, as well. Luckily for you, this information should be more than enough to get you started on the road to a nice, glazed ham.


Peter's path through the culinary world has taken a number of unexpected turns. After starting out as a waiter at the age of 16, he was inspired to go to culinary school and learn the tricks of the trade. As he delved deeper, however, his career took a sudden turn when a family friend needed someone to help manage his business. Peter now scratches his culinary itch on the internet by blogging, sharing recipes, and socializing with food enthusiasts worldwide.

1 Comment

  1. Nora Qudus Reply

    thank-you, I needed information about something shelf stable for unexpected guests…I live 40 miles from a store so there is no quick trip to pick up anything. I was thinking ham in a can…googled and you came up. thank-you

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