Spring Celebrations: What’s on Your Menu?
By Diane Van, USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service
USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline gets extra busy this time of year with brisket, baked ham, and egg questions. Here are some Spring food safety tips based on questions our Hotline Food Safety Specialists have received from callers.
How long can I keep a ham in the refrigerator before cooking it?
To answer your question, we need to know what type of ham you’re buying and how it’s packaged. What does the label advise? The label is the best guide for determining storage time. It gives the product name, whether it’s smoked or cured, and whether you must refrigerate it. While USDA doesn’t require manufacturers to list the freshness date on products, many do. Look for the instructions on the label that tell you how long you can keep the product. For example: “Best if used by April 15.”
Is it safe to hide colored hard boiled eggs around the house or outside before an Easter hunt?
That’s not a good idea. It’s best to keep eggs refrigerated until hiding time. If eggs are left out of the refrigerator for more than two hours, bacteria could multiply to dangerous levels and cause food poisoning.
I’ve heard you shouldn’t let food sit out. How can I host a Passover Seder and serve a safe meal?
You bring up a classic Passover dilemma in safe food handling. Often a Seder host wants to greet everyone when they arrive then participate in the ceremony. For a formal Seder you prepare a lot of food ahead of time, and no one wants to eat cold lamb, brisket or lukewarm gefilte fish. Remember to:
- Serve your cold foods -the eggs and gefilte fish- straight from the refrigerator. Keep them cold by nesting dishes in beds of ice or use a series of small serving trays and replace them often.
- Fully cook and slice the brisket before the Seder begins. Then either reheat it in the microwave while serving your matzo ball soup, or leave the foil-covered brisket, kept moist with gravy, in a warming oven (about 200°F) until serving time.
- Discard food that has been left out at room temperature more than two hours (one hour when the temperature is above 90°F).
For more information, check out these resources:
- Spring Traditions: Serving Ham Safely
- Spring Traditions: Serving Brisket Safely
- Eggs-tra Care for Spring Celebrations
- Safely Preparing Corned Beef Brisket in a Slow Cooker
- Videos about ham, brisket and egg safety
If you have other food safety questions feel free to contact us at the Hotline (1-888-674-6854 toll-free) or online at AskKaren.gov
Have a safe and happy Spring celebration!