Extension educator Jeannie Nichols publishes Easter and Passover food safety article


Spring is nearly here and with it comes some special holidays and holiday foods. Using a food thermometer when preparing meals is essential to serving safe food to our family and friends. Cooking food thoroughly is one of the four steps in preventing food borne illness according to the national “Fight BAC!™” campaign. The other three steps are: having clean hands and surfaces, separating raw and cooked foods and chilling leftovers promptly.

Here is some food safety advice from the USDA for foods typically served at spring holidays.

• EGGS: Hard-cooked eggs should be cooked thoroughly. Refrigerate eggs within two hours of cooking and use them within a week.

• DYEING AND HUNTING EGGS: To dye hard-cooked eggs, use a food-safe coloring and place them in the refrigerator within two hours. Hard-cooked eggs for an egg hunt must be prepared with care to prevent cracking the shells. If the shells crack, bacteria could contaminate the inside. The total time for hiding and hunting eggs should not be longer than two hours. The “found” eggs must be scrubbed with a brush or cloth under running water, dried and then re-refrigerated until eaten. You could also hide plastic eggs and then use the refrigerated decorated eggs to eat.

• BEEF AND LAMB are often served at spring dinners. Marinated meat must be kept in the refrigerator before cooking. Roasts, steaks, and chops should be cooked to at least 145°F in an oven set no lower than 325°F. Ground meats, on the other hand, should be cooked to 160°F.

• HAM: Both vacuum-packaged fully cooked and canned hams can be eaten cold just as they come from their packaging. To reheat them, set the oven no lower than 325°F and heat to an internal temperature of 140°F. Cook-before-eating hams must be baked in an oven set no lower than 325°F and reach 160°F before serving. Hams can also be safely cooked in a microwave oven, other countertop appliances and on the stove top.

• TURKEY OR CHICKEN: To defrost frozen poultry, place it in the refrigerator allowing one day for every four pounds. These birds can also be safely thawed by submerging the wrapped poultry in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes. When roasting whole poultry, set the oven to no lower than 325°F and heat to an internal temperature of 165°F in the thigh as measured with a food thermometer. If stuffing whole poultry, make the dressing immediately before inserting it loosely in the cavity. The stuffing must reach 165°F before removing the bird from the oven.

• HANDLING LEFTOVERS: No perishable foods should stand at room temperature for more than two hours. Place leftovers in shallow containers, refrigerate, and use or freeze within three to four days. Thoroughly reheat leftovers to 165°F.

Using a thermometer lets you know that you are cooking your food thoroughly and at the same time you will know that it isn’t overcooked and dry!

Access the full article on The Daily Reporter website.

Jeannie Nichols is a food safety educator for Michigan State University Extension. She can be reached at nicho115@msu.edu or 517-439-9301. 

Jeannie Nichols, Michigan State University Extension