Many people choose ham as the main source of protein at their Christmas meal; generally, it is a safe and delicious alternative to turkey. It is important to know, however, that ham is a perishable food that requires proper handling. The best way to ensure a safe Christmas Ham meal is to follow food safety tips for proper storage, preparation, and cooking.
Food Safety Tips for your Christmas Ham
- If you purchased a frozen ham, keep it frozen until 3-5 days in advance of Christmas (depending on the size). Thaw it in the refrigerator and cook within a day of de-thawing, if possible.
- Always wash and dry your hands before preparing or handling ham.
- Prepare ham with clean utensils and ensure that any surface that it will touch such as counters and serving platters is clean as well.
- Use separate utensils to handle uncooked and cooked meat.
Cooking tips for ham:
Cook ham to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit; pathogenic bacteria cannot survive at this temperature. The best way to test for the internal temperature is by using a meat thermometer pierced into the deepest part of the meat.
Once cooked, cool the ham as quickly as possible before placing it in the refrigerator. If it is cold outside, you can cool it outdoors as long as the meat is well covered.
Serving tips for ham:
Slice the ham and put out one serving at a time. If the plate is running low, pull the ham out of the refrigerator and re-fill.
Any ham that has been left out at room temperature must be discarded to ensure safety. Do not mix old and new ham together.
Ham storage tips:
Ham should be stored well covered in the coldest part of the fridge; the fridge temperature must never exceed 43 degrees Fahrenheit. The ham must be eaten within one week or by New Year’s Day. You can always slice the ham and keep some in the freezer for longer lasting freshness. When ready to eat frozen ham, defrost in the fridge..
Note that a pre-cooked ham with traditional salt levels will keep in your fridge for up to several weeks. Keep it covered in a cloth soaked in water and vinegar.
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