Food Safety Information

You can hide your Easter eggs and eat them too...

Eggs should be stored in the carton on a refrigerator shelf instead of the door, and the refrigerator's temperature should remain at 40 °F or below. Eggs must be safely cooked, meaning that the yolks are firm, before dying or deviling.

Dyed and hidden eggs will still be safe to eat—if they are hidden in clean places and "found" within two hours. Shorten that to one hour in hot weather. Eggs should be hidden in places that are protected from dirt, moisture, pets, and other sources of bacteria. The "found" eggs must be washed, re-refrigerated and eaten within seven days of cooking. Plastic eggs may be a better choice for some hunts. If eggs are left at room temperature for longer than two hours, or if there is any doubt, throw them out. Click here for more information about egg safety.

Time it Right with Brisket
Brisket is also popular for spring entertaining and is an excellent choice for large groups because it can be cooked ahead of time and reheats well. Thawing and cooking brisket takes patience, however, so it is necessary to plan ahead. Thawing in the refrigerator can take about 24 hours for a trimmed brisket. A whole brisket weighing about 10 pounds can take several days.

Because it is less tender than many beef cuts, brisket usually needs to cook for at least two to three hours until "fork-tender." Whatever cooking method you use, cover the brisket and make sure it reaches a minimum internal temperature of 145 °F as measured with a food thermometer, followed by a three-minute rest time after removal from the heat source. If eating the brisket right after cooking, allowing it to stand for 20 minutes after removing it from the heat will make it easier to slice. Within two hours of cooking or reheating, place the brisket in shallow containers and cool in the refrigerator.

If reheating brisket before serving, heat it to 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Once it is thoroughly heated, keep it hot (140 °F or above) in chafing dishes, slow cookers or warming trays. To serve brisket cold, keep it at 40 °F or below by nesting dishes in beds of ice or use small servings platters and replace them often. Brisket, along with other perishable food, should not be left out for more than two hours at room temperature, so check the time and make sure either to get food back in the refrigerator or discard it.

Choose Ham Wisely

The USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline receives a lot of questions about cooking and storing ham due to the overwhelming number of choices available. Simply put, ham is a leg of pork. If it is made from the shoulder, it is called a picnic. Some hams are ready-to-eat, while those that must be cooked before eating will have cooking and safe handling instructions on the label. Here is a look at the types of ham found at the grocery store and safe handling practices for each one:
  • Fresh and cook-before-eating hams must reach 145 °F as measured with a food thermometer and then allowed to rest for three minutes after removal from the heat source to be safely cooked. Cook in an oven set no lower than 325 °F. Hams can also be safely cooked in a microwave oven, in other countertop appliances, and on the stove.
  • Ready-to-eat hams include spiral-cut ham, boneless or bone-in hams (whole, halves or portions), and dried ham such as prosciutto. These can be eaten cold right out of the package. If you want to reheat these cooked hams, set the oven no lower than 325 °F and heat to an internal temperature of 140 °F.
  • Spiral-cut hams, which are fully cooked, are best served cold because heating sliced hams can dry out the meat and cause the glaze to melt. If reheating is desired, heat to 140 °F (165 °F for leftover spiral-cut hams or ham that has been repackaged in any location outside the processing plant). To reheat a spiral-sliced ham in a conventional oven, cover it with heavy aluminum foil and heat at 325 °F for about 10 minutes per pound. Individual slices may also be warmed in a skillet or microwave.
  • Country hams, which have been dried, can be soaked four to 12 hours or longer in the refrigerator to reduce the salt content before cooking. Then they can be cooked by boiling or baking. Follow the manufacturer's cooking instructions.
Many people believe that because most hams are cured they are safe in storage longer than fresh meat. Most leftover cooked ham is only safe in the refrigerator for approximately five days. For more information on safely cooking and storing ham, click here.

Keep Ask Karen and USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline at your fingertips

USDA's virtual food safety representative, Ask Karen, is available 24 hours a day to answer food safety questions at or via smartphone. Ask Karen's live chat feature and the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline, 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854), are available in English and Spanish from l0 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET Monday through Friday. Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day.