Warmer weather, egg hunts and sweet candy treats are festive spring traditions that bring loved ones together around the table to enjoy family meals.
Oklahoma State University’s Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center wants to make sure you keep food safety in mind when preparing meals for festive spring get-togethers.
“It is important to take precautions with eggs and other perishable foods during the spring holiday season, and all year long, to avoid foodborne illness,” said Ravi Jadeja, FAPC food safety specialist. “Using good food-handling practices and cooking foods to proper internal temperatures are just a couple of reminders to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.”
FAPC suggests the following food safety tips when celebrating this spring’s holidays.
Helpful Ham Hints
Ham is one of the most popular dishes served every Easter. Hams are sold fresh, cured or cured and smoked, according to a ham and food safety fact sheet prepared by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. Differing preparation methods accompany each type of ham sold.
· Fresh, uncooked hams must be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit and allowed to rest at least 3 minutes before serving.
· Spiral cut or fully cooked and unsliced hams are ready-to-eat products that can be served cold; however, it is suggested to reheat before serving. If you reheat it, make sure it is heated to at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
· Country hams should be soaked for 4 to 12 hours to reduce salt content before cooking. After soaking in a container in the refrigerator, it should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit and allowed to rest at least 3 minutes before serving.
Certain beef cuts, like brisket, also are popular menu items at spring holiday dinners. If you are planning on serving brisket, remember to plan ahead. Keep in mind that unlike many beef cuts, it is less tender and requires longer cooking times.
· If cooking in the oven, set the oven for 350 degrees Fahrenheit or no lower than 325 degrees Fahrenheit and place the brisket fat-side up. Barely cover the meat with water and keep the cooking dish covered for the duration of the cooking time. Cook for 1 hour per pound of meat.
Lamb is another popular protein at Easter because of its religious ties to the holiday. Whether you are cooking lamb shanks, shoulders or steaks, all cuts should be cooked to a safe internal minimum temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit as measured by a meat thermometer, followed by a 3-minute rest time.
“Egg”cellent Safety Tips
Eggs are a staple for Easter meals whether they are dyed, deviled or hard-boiled, but eggs can carry salmonella, a key contributor of foodborne illness. According to the USDA, salmonella can be present on the inside and outside of even normal-looking eggs. The following tips will help you avoid the risk of getting sick from eggs.
· If you plan to make an egg dish or eat the Easter eggs you decorate, make sure to not leave them out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
· Always cook eggs until both the white and yolk are firm.
· Casseroles and other dishes containing eggs should be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, as measured by a food thermometer.
·Cooked eggs and dishes containing eggs should be served immediately after cooking or placed in shallow containers for quick cooling.
·After hard-boiling eggs, dye them and return them to the refrigerator within 2 hours.
·When decorating eggs, be sure to only use food-grade dye if you plan to eat the Easter eggs you decorate. The USDA recommends making two batches of eggs - one for decorating and hiding and another for eating.
Re-cook with Care
Holiday meals mean leftover food is available to enjoy days after the original meal is served. Keep these tips in mind when there are leftovers.
·Leftovers should be divided into smaller portions, stored in several shallow containers and refrigerated within two hours after cooking. They should be eaten within 3 to 4 days. If large amounts are left, consider freezing leftovers for later use.
· Reheat leftovers to 165 degrees Fahrenheit throughout or until steaming hot. Soups, sauces and gravies should be brought to a rolling boil for at least 1 minute. Never taste leftover food that looks or smells strange. When in doubt, throw it out.
FAPC, a part of OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, helps to discover, develop, and deliver technical and business information that stimulates and supports the growth of value-added food and agricultural products and processing in Oklahoma.
For more information about food safety, text FAPC to 80802 to download the free FAPC Connect app or visit www.fapcconnect.com.