11 Canned Spam Hacks You Should Know

Canned Spam is all too often maligned as an aberration, one that is only worth consuming in post-apocalyptic scenarios or on an unsavory dare (pun intended). And if this is your opinion of Spam, then you wouldn't be too far off. Indeed, it was conceived during the difficult days of the Great Depression, specifically in 1937, and then added to soldiers' rations during WWII. In both cases, it helped to feed large numbers of people on an extremely limited budget, which might help explain why Spam continues to be so looked down upon, yet also hugely popular.

Spam is just made of pork, water, salt, potato starch, sugar, and sodium nitrate. Nothing too mysterious. So, rather than fading away to the annals of history, this canned meat became iconic and has since evolved into a beloved pantry staple for more people than you might realize. Despite its somewhat unappetizing appearance and reputation as a cheap food, many people enjoy its savory flavor, whether they like to admit it or not. Its distinct profile lends itself to a myriad of dishes spanning various cuisines. From comfort foods like Spam and eggs to creations like Spam musubi — a popular Hawaiian snack — this canned meat has more than proven its adaptability. Not only that, but Spam requires no refrigeration until opened, making it an ideal choice for camping trips or as a backup for weeknight dinners. Let's look at how best to make it work for your palate and schedule.

Cut the bottom of the tin to extract it

Spam may have many convenient features, including ease of cooking and long shelf life, but it can sometimes be a challenge to get it out of the tin in the first place — even for the best of us. That's because the meat is intentionally stuffed into the tin to prevent the infiltration of air, which is what helps it last for so long when unopened. While you can certainly spoon it out fairly easily, this could be a problem if you want to make something that requires the Spam to remain whole, so that you can slice it in an orderly fashion.

That's where our trick of cutting the bottom of the tin comes into play. The key is to eliminate the vacuum seal effect that is keeping the Spam glued to the side of the tin. To do this, use a sharp knife or a can opener to make a slit in the bottom of the can, which will release the air and nullify the vacuum seal. With that gone, you can open the top of the can and the Spam should slide right out. If it doesn't come willingly even then, squeezing the can gently and tapping it lightly on the bottom should do the trick. Just make sure you have a receptacle ready to catch it, or it might go flying.

Boil it to reduce the saltiness

While a lot of people like the flavor of Spam just the way it is, others might find it a bit too salty, especially if they're more accustomed to a low-sodium diet. This may cause them to dismiss this versatile ingredient altogether. That would be a mistake, as those high salt levels can easily be dispatched with a little boiling trick we found. All you have to do is drop a chunk of spam in boiling water for a few minutes and the salt will disperse from the meat into the water. At this point, you can take the Spam out and use it to your heart's content.

Another way to do this is to cut up the Spam as you see fit and then just soak it in a bowl of hot water. This might be an easier solution if you have a lot of moving parts to your recipe, as you don't have to stand watching over it to ensure it doesn't come apart. That said, you may have to change the water a couple of times, depending on how much sodium you want to draw out of the meat. The Spam won't lose all that must salt if you leave it soaking in water that has become extremely salty. In either case, be sure to properly drain the Spam after the soaking process.

Shape Spam with cookie cutters

No matter what you think about Spam, you can't deny that it's consistent. Consistently good (or bad, depending on your tastes) and consistently textured. But there is one thing you can change about it if you want to switch things up a bit and get creative, and that's the shape. While you may be used to spooning it out in chunks or slicing it into rectangles to fry it up, we have a simple and easy suggestion for altering the appearance of Spam.

That suggestion involves cookie cutters. These babies have been used for decades on cookie dough, which, let's face it, is not that different in texture from Spam out of a can, so why not apply them to our favorite tinned pork meat? This is an especially handy idea when you're coming up to a holiday, like Halloween, Christmas, or Easter, where shaping meat into pumpkins, reindeers, or bunnies could make for a fun meal for the entire family. Or, next time you cook up a special Valentine's dinner for a loved one, think of Spam and how great it would look in the shape of a heart. Alternatively, if you have the right cookie cutters, or if you're handy with a knife and can carve out anything you please, you can use specially shaped Spam slices to spell out someone's name. Serve these up on a plate, a pie, or something whimsical.

Run hot water over the can

If you can't get Spam to come out of the can, the obvious solution might be to pry it out with a knife. You might think it reasonable that if you're able to slip a small sharp object between the meat and the walls of the can, you can then jiggle it out with a few simple flicks of the wrist. This would be a mistake. It's much more likely that you'll end up cutting through the Spam, inadvertently tearing it to shreds, and leaving a patina of it on the can walls. What you'll end up with is a block of Spam that is rough around the edges and much harder to handle in your recipes.

But there is an easy way to avoid all of this, as long as you haven't already opened the can of Spam. Simply run some hot water over the closed can for a few seconds or plunge it into a bowl of very hot water. This will loosen the fat content in the meat, causing it to separate from the can walls of its own accord. By the time you do open the can, the Spam should already be ready and waiting to pop out effortlessly when you tip it upside down.

Use the lid to cut it

There is some debate in the field of Spam as to whether it's okay to use the can's lid to slice through the meat. Some people worry that since the Spam can has been exposed to air, germs, and manipulation by dirty hands, the lid could contain contaminants that could get into your food. This is a valid concern. Aside from dust that may have accumulated on the lid, it might also have some metal shavings, which can then get into your food.

But you'd be missing out on a major convenience factor if you didn't at least consider cutting Spam with the lid. Since the lid can be peeled right off, why not then use it to slice the Spam directly in the tin? This is especially useful on camping trips or picnics, where knives may not be readily available or have been forgotten entirely. Just make sure you thoroughly wash the can before you open it, so as to ensure the cleanliness of the lid. You should also be especially careful not to slice your fingers as you go to town on the Spam. Unlike knives, which have handles and some level of built-in protection, the lid of a Spam tin is rough around the edges — quite literally. If you're worried about cutting yourself, it may be safer to flip the Spam out onto a plate or cutting board and slice it there.

Flavor desserts with Spam

You may have heard that Spam is an incredibly versatile ingredient. It can be used in burgers, casseroles, Hawaiian Spam musubi, and countless other applications. But did you know that it can also be used in desserts to great effect? Just like bacon is able to add a salty punch to chocolate brownies and the like, Spam can also impart a welcome savory element to a myriad of sweets, when used in small doses.

For instance, you can try adding a few thin slices of Spam to your s'mores. To make this work, fry up the Spam as if it were bacon, and then layer it on Graham crackers along with a marshmallow, grilled or cooked over an open fire, and your favorite chocolate. For best results, make sure the Spam is nice and crispy. This will help add that savoriness while also improving the texture of the s'mores. Few things make more decadent dishes than the juxtaposition of soft, gooey marshmallows with the crisp crunch of salty meat. In short, anything bacon can do, Spam can do just as well — or maybe even better.

Cook it in an air fryer

Anything that is cut in the shape of a French fry can wear the label "fries," and the same is true for Spam, especially with it is sliced up and cooked in an air fryer. What you get in this scenario is a tasty, crispy finger food that is crunchy on the outside and meaty on the inside. And as with most Spam recipes, the process is simple: Turn up your air fryer to 360 degrees Fahrenheit and cook the Spam slices for about 15 minutes. If the Spam fries are still not crispy enough after that, cook them a little longer. While you can also use an oven for this trick, you'll get more consistent results with an air fryer.

Spam fries are tasty enough on their own –- after all, you're working with a pre-salted pork product. But you can amp up the flavor with a seasoning blend made with spices of your choice. We recommend keeping it simple, so as not to overload the Spam fries, which could turn limp. Instead, stick to garlic powder, onion powder, and maybe some smoked paprika or cayenne pepper if you want a little bite. Alternatively, you can turn them into Spam sticks, as in mozzarella sticks, and coat them in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs. This version works especially well with a dipping sauce, like simple marinara or a ketchup and mayo mix. Expect a regulation-sized can of Spam to yield about 24 "fries," or sticks.

Use it as bread in a sandwich

A Spam sandwich — a slab of Spam between two pieces of bread — is an easy enough concept to imagine. But using the Spam as the bread, and slipping other ingredients between two slices of this pork meat, is another thing entirely. Not only is this special sandwich tasty and full of protein, but it's a great option for anyone who can't eat bread or gluten and needs to find a replacement for it anyway.

Just note that to make this work, you'll need to bread the Spam (though you can always use gluten-free panko breadcrumbs for that). After that, just deep fry the breaded Spam until crispy (so that it retains its shape better) and add your favorite fillings, like tomatoes, cheese slices, and condiments. Make sure you use fairly thick slices of Spam, so the whole thing doesn't fall apart in your hands.

Turn Spam drippings into gravy

Some meats lend themselves better than others to rendering. For example, any beef cut with a high fat content is likely to perform swimmingly in this department. Meanwhile, Spam might not be high on your list if you're guessing which meats make the best drippings. Yet, a generous Reddit user has enlightened us on the matter when they wrote about a drippings recipe made with Spam, butter, and canned milk.

And this process doesn't even require cooking a whole bird. It's far simpler than that. Just fry your Spam in butter with a dash of oil, then remove the meat and add milk to the pan until the concoction thickens into a glorious gravy. This is a great trick if you need a quick gravy and don't have a kit or mix on hand. And you can use it on anything you would normally eat with gravy. Pour it liberally over your mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, stuffing, other meats, or buttermilk biscuits.

Use it as a seasoning agent

Spam's versatility extends to the fact that beyond the original flavor, it also comes in a myriad of other versions, including oven-roasted turkey and even a low-fat version for those who may want to cut out certain fats from their diet. In addition to this giving you the benefit of choice for your favorite Spam recipes, it also means you can use these various Spam flavors as built-in seasonings. Meaning, that next time you make something with Spam, choose the type based on what you want your dish to taste like.

To help you in this endeavor, we have put together a list of the best Spam flavors to try. Garlic Spam is particularly tasty, and it means you won't have to add any extra garlic to your dish. Spam with cheese is a great ingredient to drop into an omelet, killing two birds with one stone. And Spam with chorizo seasoning, or the one with jalapeños, brings you all the benefits of meaty goodness with a hint of spice. So, next time you want to make a two-ingredient dish, just whip out some pre-flavored Spam and you'll have taken care of half the recipe.

Enhance your leftovers with Spam

It's not uncommon to have leftover starches lying around, whether it's extra rice made for a curry, extra pasta prepared to accompany a sauce, or roasted potatoes that complemented the turkey oh-so-well. But what to do with them once all the protein is gone? It feels a little empty to fuel up on nothing but plain rice. That's where Spam comes in, whether it's leftover or freshly opened. No matter what kind of leftovers you're dealing with, you'll be likely to find a way to turn them into a complete meal just by adding Spam.

For one, there's fried rice. This dish is made best with day-old rice anyway, as drier rice lends itself better to the frying process. As you do this, just add some cubes of Spam and some chopped carrots or peas to the mix. Use the teriyaki Spam flavor for added umami. Similarly, leftover roasted potatoes can be heated up in a pan with some chunks of Spam and instantly be transformed into breakfast hash. Lastly, that classic mac and cheese from the other day is only waiting to be heated up in a pan with some pieces of Spam. But don't limit yourself to these ideas. Unless you're dealing with a closed-off dish, like a quiche or a pie, feel free to add Spam to any leftovers that need an extra boost in flavor.