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Spring Celebrations: Handling Leftovers

Now that we have served that delicious ham and brisket and hunted for our hard-cooked Easter eggs, callers to USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline have questions about the storage of these leftovers.  Here are some answers based on questions our Hotline food safety specialists have reviewed from callers.

How long can I keep a leftover cooked ham in the refrigerator?

Spring Holiday HamMany people believe that because most hams are cured that they can be stored longer than fresh meat. However, leftover cooked ham should be used within 3-4 days or frozen. To determine how long different types of ham can be stored safely in the refrigerator and freezer, see the Ham Storage Chart

How long can I keep leftover cooked brisket in the refrigerator?

Store cooked brisket in the refrigerator (40 °F or below) and use within 3 to 4 days. Cooked brisket can be frozen for 2 to 3 months for best quality. After that time, it will still be safe, but can lose flavor and moisture. For more information on the safe preparation and handling of beef, check out Beef...from Farm to Table. For more information about cooking, reheating and storing brisket visit the blog post: Spring Traditions: Serving Brisket Safely

What is the best way to safely handle eggs used for an Easter egg hunt?

The "found" Easter eggs must be washed, re-refrigerated and eaten within 7 days of cooking. We do not recommend using hard-cooked eggs that have been lying on the ground, because they can pick up bacteria, especially if the shells are cracked. If the shells crack, bacteria can contaminate the inside. Eggs should be hidden in places that are protected from dirt, moisture, pets, and other sources of bacteria. The total time for hiding and hunting eggs should not exceed 2 hours or 1 hour if the air temperature outside is above 90°F.

If you have other food safety questions feel free to contact us at the Hotline (1-888-674-6854 toll-free) or online at

Posted in: SeasonalTagged: Ham | Brisket