Published on 11/09/05

Ham adds flavor to holiday table

By Stephanie Schupska
University of Georgia

Loading down the dining room table is a holiday tradition in itself. And while turkeys still gobble up most of the meat space, ham is starting to get a little more attention and more room on the platter.

Whether bone-in and spiral cut or boneless and ready for slicing, this well-known Easter treat can enhance any holiday meal without too much worry over nutritional value.

“Pork, like turkey, is considered to be a lean meat,” said Judy Harrison, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension foods specialist. “Pork is about 30 percent leaner today than it was years ago.”

For example, Harrison says a three-ounce portion of fresh ham, lean only, roasted has approximately 179 calories, eight grams of fat and 25 grams of protein. In comparison, a three-ounce portion of turkey (dark meat) has 156 calories, six grams of fat and 24 grams of protein. A similar size portion of white meat turkey has about 132 calories, three grams of fat and 25 grams of protein.

Tenderloins are the leanest cut of pork.

To pick a quality ham, Harrison recommends consumers first decide whether they want a cured ham or a fresh ham. Cured ham has a higher sodium content. If time is an issue, she suggests choosing a fully cooked ham or smaller cut of ham.

Price is another issue. “Instead of just looking at the total cost of a product, look at the cost per serving to get the most for your money,” she said. “For instance, bone-in hams have about two to three servings per pound. Boneless hams have about four to five servings per pound.”

Even though the boneless appears to be more expensive, you will actually get more servings, she said.

When the perfect holiday ham has been selected and finally makes its way out of the refrigerator, Harrison recommends following these four safety rules:

1. Clean. Wash hands for 20 seconds with warm, running water and soap, rubbing vigorously and paying special attention to fingernails before and after handling raw meats, poultry, fish and eggs.

2. Separate. Keep raw foods separate or away from ready- to-eat foods.

3. Cook. Use a food thermometer to tell when internal temperatures that get rid of harmful bacteria have been reached. Contact your family and consumer science UGA Cooperative Extension agent for more information on cooking temperatures and using thermometers.

4. Chill. Refrigerate leftovers immediately. Do not leave perishable foods at room temperature for more than two hours.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines when cooking hams are to “set the oven temperature to 325° F,” Harrison said. “Both cook-before-eating cured and fresh hams should be cooked to 160° F. Reheat fully cooked ham to at least 140°F.”

For those using a turkey fryer this holiday season, that’s the one place a ham shouldn’t go.

“We would not recommend frying a whole ham like a turkey,” she said. “Even with turkeys, there is a safety hazard that people should be aware of with handling so much hot oil.”

(Stephanie Schupska is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

Stephanie Schupska is the communications coordinator with the University of Georgia Honors College.