Is ham the star of your feast during the holidays?

How to safely thaw ham for holiday meals.

Ready or not, here come the holidays. Amid all the holiday preparations, holiday dinner items are usually a crucial part of your celebration. It is a lot of work and takes planning in order to serve and enjoy a delicious and safe meal for family and friends.

If you are in charge of the holiday dinner this year and will be serving ham as part of your feast, Michigan State University Extension recommends you plan to safely thaw and cook your holiday ham. When planning to cook and serve a ham that is frozen, proper thawing of the ham is critical. There are three safe ways to thaw ham: in the refrigerator, in cold water (in an airtight or leak-proof bag) and in the microwave.

Ideally, you can plan ahead for safe thawing in the refrigerator. Simply place the item in the bottom of the refrigerator in a leak-proof container and leave it to thaw. Make sure your refrigerator thermometer reads 38-40 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure the refrigerator is at a safe temperature. Thawing in the refrigerator does take some time, though, about 4 to 6 hours per pound.  

Cold water thawing is a faster process than refrigerator thawing but you need to be aware of the time and be attentive to the sink since you will put the ham in a leak-proof package or plastic bag and submerge it in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes. If thawing with cold water, you can plan for about 30 minutes per pound of ham as the thawing time. Also remember, if you are thawing the ham completely by the cold water method, the food must be cooked immediately after thawing.

When microwave-defrosting ham, plan to cook it immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm and start cooking during microwaving.

After safely thawing, cooking times will vary depending on the type of ham you are serving.  Refer to the ham cooking chart found at the USDA’s website.

A delicious dinner begins with safe food practices, so you are well on your way to a home filled with the sounds and smells of the holidays.

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