Surprisingly versatile, this canned meat product has a long shelf life before it’s opened. But how do you keep it fresh afterward? Find out how to store spam after opening so it stays fresh for longer.
I like it in Spam fried rice, Spam musubi, and even in a simple Spam grilled cheese. But any way you slice it, this unique ingredient is enjoying a resurgence as an easy, affordable, quick meal option.
And the good news is that the shelf life of Spam is long — it can last for years in its original tin. But if you don’t finish it all in one go, no problem. I’ll show you the best ways to store leftover Spam, including how to freeze it.
What is Spam?
Spam includes just six ingredients:
- Pork with ham
- Potato starch
- Sodium nitrite (a preservative and food coloring)
To make it, the pork and ham are ground up. Then the remaining ingredients are added and cooked, and the product is placed into signature Spam cans, each holding 12 ounces. But that’s not the end of the process. Once the cans are vacuum-sealed, they’re cooked again and cooled before the label is applied.
Introduced in 1937 by Hormel Foods, this canned food was originally marketed as a “Meat of Many Uses.” But it grew in popularity during World War II as this easily transportable food helped supply and sustain the U.S. military. By 1959, one billion cans of Spam had been sold.
Now more than a dozen varieties of Spam are available in over 40 countries worldwide. There’s even a Spam museum located in Austin, Minnesota. If you’re into that.
How long does Spam last before opening?
One joke about Spam is that this processed meat lasts forever. But that’s not exactly true. While cans of Spam don’t have an expiration date, they do note a best-by date. This is when it will be at its best to consume. And generally, it’s within 3 years from the manufacturing date.
After that, unopened Spam can deteriorate and you may notice a reduction in quality, taste, and texture.
An unopened can of Spam does not need to be refrigerated. It’s best to store it in a cool, dark place that’s out of direct sunlight, like a pantry.
What’s the best way to store Spam after opening?
Once you open Spam, you’ll want to keep it in the fridge. You can do this in a couple of different ways.
- Method 1: Simply tightly seal the leftover spam in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator, either on a plate or in the original can.
- Method 2: Refrigerate the spam in a sealable airtight container.
For the second method, you can line the bottom of the container with parchment paper to help prevent the Spam from sticking to it, but it’s not strictly necessary.
Whichever method you choose, opened Spam can stay good for 4-5 days in the fridge.
❌ Avoid keeping Spam out at room temperature for more than two hours, as harmful bacterial growth can start to form after that time.
Can you freeze Spam?
Yes, you can freeze Spam, and it’s very easy to do. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
1. If you haven’t prepared it yet, remove it from the can.
2. Then, it’s a good idea to cut into slices or cubes first. This will allow you to thaw out only what you need later, instead of the whole amount.
3. Line a large plastic airtight container or freezer-safe bag with parchment paper or wax paper to keep the Spam from sticking.
4. Place the Spam into the bag or container to help prevent freezer burn, and label it with the date you froze it.
Spam should keep for up to 3 months in freezer without losing any of its quality.
To thaw it, you can simply transfer it to your fridge and let defrost slowly. Or you can thaw it in a freezer bag in a bowl of cold water.
❌ For best results, you shouldn’t defrost frozen Spam in the microwave as it can become soft and unpleasant to eat, especially if accidentally over-cooked.
How can I tell if Spam has spoiled?
While canned Spam does last a very long time, it can go bad. If you notice any sour or off odors, an overly mushy or slimy texture, or any discoloration or moldy patches, those are all signs of spoilage in old Spam. In any of these cases, it’s best to discard it.
Different theories exist about how this canned meat got its name. One suggests that it’s a combination of the words “spiced ham.” Another says it stands for “Special Processed American Meat.” In fact, there is no official explanation for how the name came about. Hormel Foods, which makes Spam, insists on its website that it’s unable to provide a definitive answer. They only say it’s a closely guarded secret likely known by just a handful of company executives.
One of the main ingredients in SPAM is ham, so it has a sort of ham taste with a firm texture. When pan fried, it will also take on a crispiness as well as a bit of a smoky flavor. And it has noticeable saltiness, which helps give SPAM its famously long shelf life.
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