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 AskKaren.gov 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.