University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County
COOK IT
QUICK

Helping you prepare healthy foods in a hurry

Alice Henneman, MS, Registered Dietitian and Extension Educator
University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County

Get E-mail Sign Up for Monthly
Cook
It Quick E-mails

 

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:

  • 1/4 - 1/3 lb. per serving of boneless ham
  • 1/3 - 1/2 lb. of meat per serving of ham with little bone
  • 3/4 - 1 lb. of meat per serving of ham with large bone.

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.

HAM GLOSSARY

CANNED HAM -- Canned hams come in two forms:

  • Shelf stable - store on shelf up to 2 years at room temperature. Generally not over 3 pounds in size. Processed to kill all spoilage bacteria and pathogenic organisms such as Clostridium botulinum, Salmonella and Trichinella spiralis. The product is free of microorganisms capable of growing at ordinary room temperature. However, high temperature storage -- above 122 F (50 C) -- may result in harmless thermophylic bacteria multiplying and swelling or souring the product.

  • Refrigerated - may be stored in refrigerator up to 6 to 9 months. Its weight can be up to 8% more than original uncured weight due to uptake of water during curing. It need not be labeled "Added water" except for "In Natural Juices." Net Weight is the weight of the actual ham excluding the container. Processed at a time/temperature sufficient to kill infectious organisms (including Trichinae) but the ham is not sterilized so spoilage bacteria may grow eventually.

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.

TYPE OF HAM REFRIGERATE FREEZE
FRESH (UNCURED) HAM
Uuncooked 3 to 5 days 6 mos
Cooked 3 to 4 days 3 to 4 mos
CURED HAM, cook-before-eating
Uncooked 5 to 7 days OR
Use-by date*
3 to 4 mos
After consumer cooks it 3 to 5 days 1 to 2 mos
FULLY COOKED HAM, vacuum sealed at plant
Undated; unopened 2 weeks 1 to 2 mos
Dated; unopened Use by date* 1 to 2 mos
Undated or dated; opened 3 to 5 days 1 to 2 mos
FULLY COOKED HAM, store wrapped
Whole 7 days 1 to 2 mos
Half 3 to 5 days 1 to 2 mos
Slices 3 to 5 days 1 to 2 mos
**COUNTRY HAM
Uncooked, cut 2 to 3 mos 1 month
Cooked 7 days 1 month
CANNED HAM
Labeled "Keep Refrigerated," unopened 6 to 9 mos Do not freeze
Labeled "Keep Refrigerated," opened 7 days 1 to 2 mos
***Shelf stable, opened 3 to 4 days 1 to 2 mos
LUNCH MEAT HAM
Sealed at plant, unopened 2 weeks OR Use-by date* 1 to 2 mos
Sealed at plant, after opening 3 to 5 days 1 to 2 mos
Sliced in store 3 to 5 days 1 to 2 mos
PROSCUITTO, PARMA OR SERRANO HAM, DRY ITALIAN OR SPANISH TYPE, cut 2 to 3 mos 1 month

*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:

  • Both cook-before-eating cured and fresh hams should be cooked to 160 F.

  • Reheat fully cooked ham to 140 F.

  • 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.

Using a food thermometer is the only way to accurately determine a safe internal temperature is reached. Learn how to use a thermometer at lancaster.unl.edu/food/ftfeb04.htm.

CUT WEIGHT
(pounds)
MINUTES
per pound
SMOKED HAM, cook-before-eating
Whole, bone in 10 to 14 18 to 20
Half, bone in 5 to 7 22 to 25
Shank or Butt Portion, bone in 3 to 4 35 to 40
Arm Picnic Shoulder, boneless 5 to 8 30 to 35
Shoulder Roll (Butt), boneless 2 to 4 35 to 40

SMOKED HAM, fully cooked

Whole, bone in 10 to 14 15 to 18
Half, bone in 5 to 7 18 to 24
Arm Picnic Shoulder, boneless 5 to 8 25 to 30
Canned ham, boneless 3 to 10 15 to 20
Vacuum packed, boneless 6 to 12 10 to 15
Spiral cut, whole or half 7 to 9 14 to 18
FRESH HAM, uncooked
Whole leg, bone in 12 to 16 22 to 26
Whole leg, boneless 10 to 14 24 to 28
Half, bone in 5 to 8 35 to 40
Arm Picnic Shoulder, bone in 5 to 8 30 to 35
Arm Picnic Shoulder, boneless 3 to 5 35 to 40
COUNTRY HAM
Whole or Half (Soak 4 to 12 hrs in refrigerator; then boil, covered with water. Drain, glaze and brown at 400 F 15 minutes.) 10 to 16, whole; 5 to 8, half 20 to 25

 

 

smiley face Was this article helpful to you? YES NO

Enter any comments on this article below:

(NOTE: Include your e-mail address if you have a question about this article you'd like answered.)

apple image Return to Cook It Quick Main Menu

Sign Up for COOK IT QUICK! Updates

This site is updated about once a month. Sign up here if you'd like us to e-mail you when we add new material.

Developed By:

Alice C. Henneman, MS, RD
Extension Educator
University of Nebraska
Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County

Fax: (402) 441-7148
Phone: (402) 441-7180
E-Mail: ahenneman1@unl.edu
Web site: lancaster.unl.edu/food

Use Of These Materials:

You may reproduce these materials for educational purposes but not for sales purposes. You're also welcome to link to "Cook It Quick" from your website. Please credit: COOK IT QUICK!, University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension (lancaster.unl.edu/food/ciq.htm)

Use of commercial and trade names does not imply approval or constitute endorsement by the University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension. Nor is criticism implied of products not mentioned.


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.

Address: 444 Cherrycreek Road, Lincoln, NE 68528-1507, Phone: 402-441-7180

| Search This Site |
Food Home Page | Cook It Quick | Food Reflections Newsletter
Pyramid Power Game | Food Safety Game | Programs | Publications | Links
Site Map | Lancaster County Home Page | Confidentiality Statemen
t

University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension educational programs abide with the nondiscrimination policies of the University of Nebraska and the United States Department of Agriculture.