With the Easter holiday quickly approaching, individuals are likely looking forward to sweet treats, warmer weather and time spent with loved ones. As always, the Oklahoma State University Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center reminds families to take a few precautions to help ensure food safety during festive gatherings.
“It is important to take precautions with eggs and other perishable foods during the spring 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 reminders to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.”
FAPC offers the following tips for some of the most popular food items during the spring season.
Cracking Down on Safety
It should be no surprise eggs are No. 1 on the list. Dyed, deviled or hard-boiled, eggs certainly are an Easter staple but are capable of carrying Salmonella, a key contributor of foodborne illness.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture warns Salmonella can be present on the inside and outside, even on normal-looking eggs. The following tips will help your family avoid the risk of getting sick from eggs.
• If you are planning to consume decorated Easter eggs, either on their own or as an ingredient in another dish, make sure they are not left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
• When decorating eggs, be sure only to use food-grade dye if you plan to eat the decorated eggs. The USDA recommends making two batches of eggs – one for decorating and/or hiding and another for eating.
• Always cook eggs until both the whites and yolk are firm.
• Casseroles and other dishes containing eggs should be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, determined with the use of a food thermometer.
• Casseroles and other dishes containing eggs should be served immediately after they are cooked or placed in shallow containers for quick cooling.
Ham is one of the most popular dishes served every Easter. Sold fresh, cured, or cured and smoked, the preparation methods varying depending on what type of ham you purchase. Use these tips to properly prepare your holiday ham.
• 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. This means they can be served cold. However, it is suggested reheating the product before serving. If you do reheat the ham, make sure it reaches an internal temperature of at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
• Country hams should be soaked for a minimum of 4-12 hours to reduce salt content before cooking. After soaking in a container in the refrigerator, the ham should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit and allowed to rest at least 3 minutes before serving.
Basics of Beef
Cuts like brisket are popular options for the dinner table at spring holiday meals. If you are serving brisket, remember to plan ahead. Keep in mind, unlike many other beef cuts, it is less tender and will require a longer cook time. Brisket should be cooked between 325-350 degrees Fahrenheit, fat side up. Barely cover the meat with water and keep the cooking dish covered for the duration of the cook time. Cook 1 hour per pound of meat.
Learning about Lamb
With its religious ties to the holiday, lamb is a popular protein at Easter. No matter if you are cooking shanks, shoulders or steaks, all cuts of lamb should be cooked to a safe internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit as measured by a meat thermometer, followed by a 3-minute rest time.
Rules of Reheating
Oftentimes, leftovers from holidays serve as meals for a few days after the gathering. Reheating food comes with its own set of recommendations for food safety. Leftovers should be divided into smaller portions, stored in several shallow containers and refrigerated within 2 hours after cooking.
FAPC, a part of the OSU Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, helps to discover, develop and deliver technical business information that stimulates and supports the growth of value-added food and agricultural products and processing in Oklahoma.
STORY BY: Megan Silveira | FAPC Communications Graduate Assistant