Helping you prepare healthy foods in a hurry
Alice Henneman, MS, Registered Dietitian and Extension Educator
University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County
How to Handle Ham
(The following information is adapted from "Focus on Ham," U.S. Department of Agriculture/Food Safety and Inspection Service, February 2003 version. Access the complete article at www.fsis.usda.gov/OA/pubs/ham.htm)
The word HAM means pork which comes from the hind leg of a hog. Ham made from the front leg of a hog will be labeled "pork shoulder picnic." "Turkey" Ham must be made from the thigh meat of turkey.
Hams may be fresh, cured, or cured-and-smoked. The usual color for cured ham is deep rose or pink; fresh ham (which is not cured) has the pale pink or beige color of a fresh pork roast; country hams and prosciutto (which are dry cured) range from pink to mahogany color.
Hams are either ready-to-eat or not.
Quantity to Buy
When buying a ham, estimate the size needed according to the number of servings the type of ham should yield:
Cooking or Reheating Hams
Both vacuum-packaged fully cooked and canned hams can be eaten cold just as they come from their packaging. However, if you want to reheat these fully cooked hams, set the oven no lower than 325° F and heat to an internal temperature of 140° F as measured with a meat thermometer.
For fully cooked ham that has been repackaged in any other location outside the plant or for leftover fully cooked ham, heat to 165° F.
Cook-before-eating hams must reach 160° F to be safely cooked before serving. Cook in an oven set no lower than 325° F. Hams can also be safely cooked in a microwave oven, other countertop appliances and on the stove top. Consult a cookbook for specific methods and timing.
Country hams can be soaked 4 to 12 hours or longer in the refrigerator to reduce the salt content before cooking. Then they can be cooked by boiling or baking. Follow the manufacturer's cooking instructions.
CANNED HAM -- Canned hams come in two forms:
COOK BEFORE EATING - needs further cooking. Is not completely cooked in the plant and should be cooked to 160° F.
COUNTRY HAM - uncooked, cured, dried, smoked-or-unsmoked meat products made from a single piece of meat from the hind leg of a hog or from a single piece of meat from a pork shoulder. Smithfield and country hams are not fully cooked but are dry cured to be safe stored at room temperature. They should be cooked before eating according to manufacturer's instructions. A ham labeled "Smithfield Ham" must be processed in the city of Smithfield, Virginia.
FRESH HAM - the uncured leg of pork. Since the meat is not cured or smoked, it has the flavor of a fresh pork loin roast or pork chops. Its raw color is pinkish red and after cooking, greyish white.
FULLY COOKED - needs no further cooking. Fully cooked in plant. Can be eaten directly as it comes from its packaging or reheated.
PICNIC, PORK SHOULDER PICNIC - a front shoulder cut of pork which has been cured in the same manner as ham.
PROSCIUTTO HAM - An Italian-style dry cured raw ham; not smoked; often coated with pepper. Proscuitti can be eaten raw because of the way they are processed. PARMA HAM is prosciutto from the Parma locale in Italy. These hams tend to be larger than the U.S. produced product, as Italian hogs are larger at slaughter.
HAM STORAGE CHART
NOTE: Freezer storage is for quality only. Frozen hams remain safe indefinitely.
*Company stands by its "Use-by" date.
**A whole, uncut Country Ham can be stored safely at room temperature for up to 1 year. After one year the ham is safe but the quality may suffer.
***An unopened Shelf Stable Canned Ham may be stored at room temperature for 2 years.
TIMETABLE FOR COOKING HAM
NOTE: Set oven temperature to 325° F and use these temperatures:
For more information about preparing healthy meals, contact your local University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension Office; for the location of the office nearest you, click here. For a listing of Cooperative Extension Offices throughout the United States, click here.
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