Cooking Hams for the Holiday Season

Cooking Hams for the Holiday Season

‘Tis the season for ham! If you’re a ham fan, this one’s for you. In addition to Easter, more hams are served during the winter holidays than any other time of year. Unfortunately, it is easy to contract a foodborne illness if you eat ham left out too long at room temperature or from other mishandling practices. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is recommending the following ham handling tips to keep guests and hosts safe at holiday gatherings.

Buying a Ham

Meat from the hind leg of a hog is called “ham.” When buying one, temperature and timing are important.

Forty degrees is the safe temperature when buying refrigerated hams. Make sure when you buy any type of perishable ham that it is kept refrigerated at 40℉ or below.

Two is the safe time. Take perishable ham home and refrigerate it within two hours. Bacteria grow rapidly in the temperature “Danger Zone” between 40℉ and 140℉.

Hot is the safe condition. When picking up a hot, cooked ham at a store or restaurant, keep it hot, at least 140℉. Take it home and keep it at this temperature until serving. If you are serving it later, divide portions into shallow containers or packages and refrigerate it to eat cold or reheat later to 165℉.

Canned hams are safe on the shelf as are dry country hams.

Cooking a Ham   

Cook all raw fresh ham and ready-to-eat ham to a minimum internal temperature of 145℉ as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source.

Set the oven temperature to 325℉.

To see estimated cooking times, go to and type in “ham cooking times” to find a cooking chart.

For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming.

For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook meat to higher temperatures.

Reheat cooked hams packaged in USDA inspected plants to 140℉ and all others to 165℉.


Two of the most popular hams during the holiday season is the spiral-cut ham and country ham.

Spiral-cut cooked hams are very popular during the holiday season. They are safe to eat cold. The unique slicing method, invented in 1957, reduces carding problems. These hams are best served cold because heating sliced whole or half hams can dry out the meat and cause the glaze to melt and run off the meat. If reheating is desired, hams that were packaged in processing plants under USDA inspection must be heated to 140℉ as measured with a food thermometer 165℉ for leftover spiral-cut hams or ham that has been repackaged in any other location outside the plant). To reheat a spiral-sliced ham in a conventional oven, cover the entire ham or a portion with heavy aluminum foil and heat at 325℉ for about 10 minutes per pound. Individual slices may also be warmed in a skillet or microwave.

Country hams cans be soaked 4 to 12 hours or longer in the refrigerator to reduce salt content before cooking. They can then be cooked by boiling or baking. Follow the manufacture’s cooking instructions.

The BEST Grilled Vegetables

The BEST Grilled Vegetables

Vegetables take relatively little time to cook, they’re the perfect candidate for cooking on the grill. Veggie options that cook well on the grill are pretty much endless. Adding more plants to meals is always a plus. Summer eats are meant to be simple, and these grilled vegetables are falling right in line.

The best vegetables for grilling are:

Zucchini – green or yellow work perfectly, cut into 1/3 inch to 1/2 inch slices before grilling, cut too thin and they will fall apart.

Bell peppers, poblano,  jalapeno, sweet baby peppers, shishito peppers – slice bell peppers and remove seeds of the bell peppers before grilling for easier eating.

Portabello mushrooms or large brown mushrooms – no need to slice the mushroom, grill them whole. Start the mushrooms gill side down then finish cap side down to hold moisture.

Eggplant – for some people, grilled is the best way to eat eggplant, it becomes tender, creamy and smoky.

Carrots – grilling quickly softens carrots and makes a pretty striped presentation.

Onions – any variety including green onions become sweet when grilled.

Asparagus – fatter asparagus cooks more evenly than skinny and won’t fall through the grates on your grill.

Corn – cooking corn doesn’t come any easier than this.

Artichokes --- the artichoke should be steamed or boiled until tender before putting it on the grill. Brush with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper then grill.

Cauliflower –slice as steaks so they will hold together.

Broccoli – slice as steaks or grill in florets.

Romaine lettuce – oh so good! Don’t shred it. Cut it length wise down the middle. 

Tomatoes – best grilled in halves or whole, watch them carefully.

5 Tips for the BEST Grilled Vegetables

5 Tips for the BEST Grilled Vegetables

  grilled veggies

Grilling vegetables highlights their natural sugars to become sweetly smoky and caramelized. If you have a non-veggie liker, try serving them grilled veggies. They’re may be converted. 

1. Slice the vegetables the same thickness so they cook at the same rate. Aim for slices roughly between 1/3inch and 1/2 inch. Slicing the veggies too thin will make them too tender and fall apart. 

2. Put oil on the vegetables before grilling. Follow the golden rule on grilling - oil what you grill, not the grill itself. Drizzle the vegetables with your favorite oil then spread evenly with your fingers. Mushrooms will absorb oil quickly so work fast, but don’t fret too much about them. They will produce plenty of juice on their own.

3. Season simply. Sprinkle the vegetables somewhat generously with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. They will absorb the salt as they cook, enhancing their inherent sweetness. Feel free to add dried herbs such as oregano, mint, tarragon, basil or whatever you like.

4. Grill’em up hot. Start your veggies over medium heat, about 350 degrees or 450 degrees. Lay long slices of asparagus or carrots crosswise over the grates so they don’t fall through. Close the grill lid and cook the vegetables undisturbed, flipping after 3 – 5 minutes.

5. Close the lid. Closing the lid of your grill creates the same environment as an oven, baking the vegetables as they lightly char. Check their progress every few minutes and cook until softened and the vegetables have your preferred amount of char. 

Glorious Goodies to Send

Glorious Goodies to Send and Receive

How can you be sure food survives holiday shopping? It’s all in the planning. Follow these handy tips to make sure what you send and receive is handled properly.

Mailing a Perishable Food Gift…..
Make sure the food is frozen solid or refrigerator cold.
Use an insulated cooler or a heavy corrugated box packed with a frozen gel pack, or purchase dry ice for keeping food cold.
Alert the recipient and agree on a delivery date.
Properly label the package “Perishable—Keep Refrigerated” on the outside, and provide a complete mailing address and phone number to ensure proper delivery.
Ship your package by overnight delivery. Note: Don’t send food to someone’s workplace. The food could accidentally be left at the office or in the trunk of a car. It’s safer to send food directly to the home, but make sure that someone will be home to receive the “surprise.”
Receiving a Perishable Food Gift…..
Open the package upon arrival.
Make sure the food is still refrigerator cold.
Immediately refrigerate or freeze the food.

NOTE: Perishable food must arrive cold to be safe. If it is not cold, do not eat it, and notify the shipper. Remember, it’s the shipper’s responsibility to have someone at home to receive the package.

Tips for Mail-order Food Gifts
When ordering food gifts through the mail, transit time and a cold source are key! Be sure to specify overnight delivery, and request that the company supply a frozen gel pack or dry ice in the packaging. This will help guarantee that the food will arrive still firm and refrigerator cold.

Remember to practice food safety this season! Be Food Safe.

Food Safety: A Changing Landscape in a Global World

Global food safety is important for the health of all Americans, Today, the United States imports about 15% of its food supply from more than 200 countries or territories. Americans want convenience, choice, and diversity in the foods we eat. Imported food helps meet these demands. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working with partners around the globe to help keep the world’s food supply safer for everyone.
Our Food Travels a Lot Farther Than It Used To
As food production becomes more globalized, the path food travels from farm to table grows more complex. Much of the food we eat in the United States is transported over long distances and distributed across wide areas. For example, about one-third of the fresh vegetables Americans eat, and half of the fresh fruits are grown in other countries. Many fruits and vegetables that were once available only during certain seasons are offered year-round because of the imports. The seafood on our table is even more global. Each year 85% to 95% of seafood eaten in the United States is imported.
A Single Point of Contamination Can Make People Sick in Many Places
The globalization of food creates new challenges for food safety. Germs can contaminate food at any point at any point along the production chain -- while growing on the farm, during harvesting, during transport and distribution, or at any grocery store. If food becomes contaminated anywhere in the production process, people may get sick when they eat it.
Because of the worldwide distribution of many foods, a single point of contamination can make people sick in different parts of the country or even the world. In the summer of 2017, CDC’s PulseNet System detected a Salmonella outbreak that had made dozens of people sick across several states. CDC and its federal and state partners launched an investigation to find out what contaminated food was making people sick. The investigation eventually linked 220 illnesses in 23 states to Maradol papayas from a single farm in Mexico. This led to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration increase in testing of papaya shipments from Mexico. This Salmonella outbreak was one of four in the United States linked o imported Maradol papayas in 2017.
Food Safety Must Be a Global Priority
Safe food is a shared global responsibility. The safety of the U.S. food supply depends on the effectiveness of food safety systems in other countries to ensure that imported products are safe. The FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are working to strengthen the international food safety system by making imported foods meet the same safety standards as foods produced in the United States. CDC also works with international health authorities to share information on foodborne outbreaks in the United States that may affect other countries. CDC and global partners are working together to protect global food networks.

When To Wash Hands

Food handlers must wash their hands before preparing food or working with clean equipment and utensils. They must wash their hands before putting on single-use gloves.

Food handlers must wash their hands after the following activities:
Using the restroom.
Touching the body or clothing.
Coughing, sneezing, blowing nose, or using a handkerchief, or tissue.
Eating, drinking, smoking, or chewing gum or tobacco.
Handling soiled items.
Handling raw meat, seafood, or poultry.
Taking out garbage.
Handling service animals.
Handling chemicals that might affect food safety.
Changing tasks (before beginning new task).
Leaving or returning to the kitchen/prep area.
Handling money.
Using electronic devices.
Touching anything else that may contaminate hands, such as dirty equipment, work surfaces, or cloths.

COVID-19 Best Practices

Best Practices for Retail Food Stores, Restaurants, and Food Pick-Up/Delivery Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic

FDA is sharing information about best practices to operate retail food stores, restaurants, and associated pick-up and delivery services during the COVID-19 pandemic to safeguard workers and consumers.

This addresses key considerations for how foods offered at retail can be safely handled and delivered to the public, as well as key best practices for employee health, cleaning and sanitizing, and personal protective equipment (PPE). This is not a comprehensive list.

Managing Employee Health

  • Instruct employees with symptoms associated with COVID-19 to report them to their supervisors. Instruct sick employees to stay home and follow the CDC’s guidelines or consult with the local health department for additional guidance.
  • If an employee is sick at work, send them home immediately. Clean and disinfect surfaces in their workspace. Others at the facility with close contact (for example, within 6 feet) of the employee during this time should be considered exposed.
  • Instruct employees who are well, but know they have been exposed to COVID-19, to notify their supervisor and follow CDC recommended precautions.
  • Inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace, if an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, while maintaining confidentiality.


Implement workplace controls to reduce transmission among employees:

Employers – Prescreen (for example, take temperature and assess symptoms prior to starting work).

Employers – Disinfect and clean work spaces and equipment, and consider more frequent cleaning of high touch surfaces.

Employees – Regularly self – monitor (for example take temperature and assess symptoms of coronavirus).

Employees – Wear a mask or face covering.

Employees – Practice social distancing and stay at least 6 feet from other people whenever possible.


Personal Hygiene for Employees

  • Emphasize effective hand hygiene including washing hands for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Always wash hands with soap and water. If soap and water are not readily available, then use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol and avoid working with unwrapped or exposed foods.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Use gloves to avoid direct bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods.
  • Before preparing or eating food, always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds for general food safety.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash hands after.


Managing Operations in a Foodservice Establishment or Retail Food Store

Continue to follow established food safety protocols and best practices for retail food establishments and important COVID-19 recommendations, including the following:

  • Follow the 4 key steps to food safety: Always – Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.
  • Wash, rinse, and sanitize food contact surfaces, dishware, utensils, food preparation surfaces, and beverage equipment after use.
  • Frequently disinfect surfaces repeatedly touched by employees or customers such as doorknobs, equipment handles, check-out counters, and grocery cart handles, etc.
  • Frequently clean and disinfect floors, counters, and other facility access areas using EPA-registered disinfectants.
  • Prepare and use sanitizers according to label instructions.


When changing your normal food preparation procedures, service, delivery functions, or making staffing changes, apply procedures that ensure:

  • Cooked foods reach the proper internal temperatures prior to service or cooling.
  • Hot foods are cooled rapidly and correctly for later use—check temperatures of food being cooled in refrigerators or by rapid cooling techniques such as ice baths and cooling wands.
  • The time foods being stored, displayed, or delivered are held in the temperature danger zone (between 41℉ and 135℉) is minimized.


Help customers maintain good infection control and social distancing by:

  • Discontinuing operations, such as salad bars, buffets, and beverage service stations that require customers to use common utensils or dispensers.
  • Finding ways to encourage spacing between customers while in line for service or check out in accordance with the applicable state or local requirements.
  • Discouraging customers from bringing pets—except service animals—into stores or waiting areas.
  • Continue to use sanitizers and disinfectants for their designed purposes.
  • Verify that your ware - washing machines are operating at the required wash and rinse temperatures and with the appropriate sanitizers and detergents.
  • Remember that hot water can be used in place of chemicals to sanitize equipment and utensils in manual ware – washing machines.
  • If you donate food to food recovery or charitable organizations, check for state and local guidelines. Communicate also with the charitable organization for their guidelines for donating food.


Managing Food Pick-up and Delivery

  • Observe established food safety practices for time/temperature control, preventing cross-contamination, cleaning hands, no sick workers, and storage of food, etc. 
  • Have employees wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, after blowing their nose, coughing or sneezing, or after touching high touch surfaces, for example doorknobs, and doorbells.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Increase the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting of high – touch surfaces such as countertops and touchpads and within the vehicle, by wiping down surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Make sure to read the label and follow the manufacturer’s instructions on use.
  • Establish designated pick – up zones for customers to help maintain social distancing,
  • Practice social distancing when delivering food, for example, offering “no-touch” deliveries and sending text alerts or calling when deliveries have arrived.
  • Conduct an evaluation of your facility to identify and apply operational changes in order to maintain social distances if offering take – out/ carry – out option by maintaining a 6 – foot distance from others, when possible.
  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold by storing in appropriate transport vessels.
  • Keep cold foods cold by keeping enough coolant materials. Hot foods hot by ensuring insulated cases are properly functioning.
  • Keep foods separated to avoid cross contamination, for example, keeping raw foods separated from cooked and ready - to- eat foods.
  • Ensure that any wrapping and packaging used for food transport is done so that contamination of the food is prevented.
  • Routinely clean and sanitize coolers and insulated bags used to deliver foods.


Please comply with state and local guidelines also regarding food safety and COVID-19.

For more information and updates, visit the sites below which provides additional information as needed.

Proper Hand Washing Procedures

To wash hands or prosthetic devices correctly, follow these steps. The whole process should take at least 20 seconds.

1. Wet hands and arms. Use running warm water.
2. Apply soap. Make sure there is enough soap to build up a good lather.
3. Scrub hands and arms vigorously for 10 to 15 seconds. Clean the finger tips, under
fingernails, and between fingers.
4. Rinse hands and arms thoroughly. Use running warm water.
5. Dry hands and arms. Use a single use paper towel or a hand dryer.

If you are not careful, you can contaminate your hands after washing them. Consider using a paper towel to turn off the faucet and to open the door when leaving the restroom.

Hand Antiseptics
Hand antiseptics, also called hand sanitizers, are liquids or gels that are used to lower the number of pathogens on skin. If used, they must comply with the Code of Federal Regulations and FDA standards. Hand sanitizers should only be used after handwashing. Wait for them to dry before you touch food or equipment.