Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Easter Dinner: Ham Safety Tips

In a nutshell: Easter is coming and inevitably, ham will grace most tables. Here are some tips to keep your Easter dinner safe.

From the FDA press release

April 6, 2009 – Ham has long been a popular springtime meal largely due to farming practices. Before refrigeration was widely available on farms, hogs were slaughtered in the fall and cured for six to seven months. By the time the ham was fully cured and ready-to-eat, springtime had arrived, making it a feature of many family meals.

Today most hams are not cured on the farm but at federal establishments that are inspected by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). Cured hams are processed under strict USDA guidelines to eliminate foodborne pathogens and other food safety risks. When the cured hams leave the establishment with the USDA mark of inspection, consumers should know that the product has been fully inspected for safety and wholesomeness.

Ham, the meat from the hind leg of a hog, is available in many forms. Ready-to-eat and canned hams are cooked at an establishment and can be safely eaten right out of the package.

Fresh hams must be cooked by the consumer before eating; these hams will bear safe handling instructions on the label. FSIS offers a number of safe handling and preparation tips for consumers at home, which are also available on the website .

While ready-to-eat spiral cut hams are best served cold, they can be reheated. Consumers who are at higher risk of foodborne illness, such as those with weakened immune systems, infants, the elderly and persons with HIV or undergoing chemotherapy, should reheat ready-to-eat ham until steaming hot or 165° F. FSIS recommends heating only those slices needed and not the entire ham as heating can dry the meat out. If you plan to reheat the entire ham, cover the ham with heavy aluminum foil and set the oven no lower than 325° F. Reheat the ham to an internal temperature of 140° F as measured with a food thermometer for about 10 minutes per pound.

Then there’s a question of what to do with those delicious leftovers. Leftovers from spiral-cut hams may be stored in the refrigerator three to five days or frozen one to two months for best flavor and texture. Individual slices may reheat to 165° F as measured with a food thermometer in the oven, a skillet or the microwave.

Storage and cooking times for hams sealed in packaging will vary. Please consult the chart for more information about ham storing and cooking, and to read a glossary of ham terms.

For more information in English and Spanish, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854; TTY: 1-800-256-7072.

Leave a Reply