Smoked ham hocks can be eaten plain or used to lend bold, smoky flavor to dishes such as bean soup, but you must ensure the ham hocks are still good. Freshness might come into question if you have leftover ham hocks stored in the refrigerator. Ham hocks that are salt cured before smoking stay fresh for much longer in the refrigerator because they lack the moisture that leads to rapid spoiling, but they eventually go bad just like uncured ham hocks.
Check the packaging carefully to ensure the ham hocks have been sealed tightly in storage as exposure to air leads to rapid food spoilage. If the wrapping or lid is loose, it might be a sign that the ham hocks aren't good.
Refer to the storage date and discard ham hocks that have been stored in the refrigerator for longer than seven days or longer than three weeks for salt-cured ham hocks.
Check the temperature inside your refrigerator and discard the ham hocks immediately if they've been stored above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, even if they've only been in the refrigerator for one day. Bacteria grows rapidly within the temperature danger zone, between 40 F and 140 F. Hang a small refrigerator thermometer from one of the racks to monitor the actual temperature inside the fridge.
Smell the ham hocks to detect any unpleasant or sour odors that occur when meat spoils.
Inspect the ham hocks carefully for color changes on the outside and inside -- this requires cutting into a section of the ham hocks. As meat spoils, it often takes on a gray, green or even black color. Additionally, smoked ham hocks are likely to develop a fuzzy mold, particularly in the small crevices.
Feel the ham hocks with your bare hands to detect a slimy film that might be a sign of spoilage.
It's always best to label food carefully before placing it in the refrigerator, but if the food isn't labeled, try to remember when it was stored or discard it to be on the safe side if you can't remember.
Odors are often difficult to detect on smoked ham hocks because smoking imparts such a strong odor and flavor. It's even more difficult to detect odors on salt-cured ham hocks.
- National Pork Board: Frequently Asked Questions
- Food and Drug Administration: Refrigerator & Freezer Storage Chart
- Foodsafety.gov: Ham Storage Chart
- ABC News: How to Tell When Leftovers Go Bad
- University of Wisconsin Extension: Keeping Food Safe
- Kitchen Parade: Ham 101: What to Know Before Buying a Ham