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Foodborne Illness and Safe Food Handling

Buying and Cooking Ham and Lamb

​​​Buying Ham and Lamb

There are many types of hams that you can buy. It is important to read the label to know how to handle and cook the type of ham that you choose.

Canned Ham

Some canned hams don’t need to be kept in the fridge, but others do. Read the label carefully.

You must keep canned hams with a keep refrigerated label in the fridge and use the ham within 6 to 9 months.

Shelf-stable canned hams can be stored (unopened) in a pantry for up to 2 years. Once open, it must be kept in the fridge.

If you want to warm a canned ham, heat it to 60 ºC (140 ºF) before serving. If not, you can just slice and eat it.

Dry-Cured Hams

Dry-cured (country) hams are shelf stable for up to 1 year. However, after a country ham is sliced, it must be kept in the fridge. Once cooked, you can keep a country ham in the fridge for 5 to 7 days. Heat a country ham until the internal temperature is 71 ºC (160 ºF).

Ready-To-Eat Hams

Fully-cooked, vacuum packaged, ready-to-eat hams must be kept in the fridge. You can keep an unopened ready to eat ham for 2 weeks. Once it is opened, you must use it within 3 to 4 days. If you want to warm it, heat it to 60 ºC (140 ºF) before serving.

Fresh Hams

Fresh (raw) hams must be kept in the fridge and used within 3 to 5 days. They must be cooked to an internal temperature of 71 ºC (160 ºF) before eating. Leftover ham slices will keep up to 3 to 4 days in the fridge.


Most lamb is labelled spring lamb or genuine, spring lamb. The word “spring” doesn’t mean the lamb was born in the spring. It means the lamb was less than a year old when it was sent to market.

Lamb is covered with a paper-like, white membrane called the fell. Remove the fell before cooking as it can make the lamb taste strong.

Put all meats in the fridge.

Cooking Lamb, Brisket, and Ham

Cook all meat in an oven above 163 ºC (325 ºF). Lower temperatures might not kill bacteria in the food. It is important to thoroughly cook foods to keep them safe.

All perishable foods must reach an internal temperature that is high enough to kill bacteria. Brisket needs to be cooked longer for tenderness and flavour. Use a meat thermometer to make sure your meat is cooked to a safe internal temperature.

Internal Cooking Temperatures

​​ Meat​ Recommended Internal Cooking Temperature
Canned refrigerated ham60 ºC (140 ºF)
Shelf-stable canned ham (fully-cooked, vacuum packaged, unopened)60 ºC (140 ºF)
Fresh ham71 ºC (160 ºF)
Fresh lamb or brisket (medium)71 ºC (160 ºF)
Fresh lamb or brisket (well done)77 ºC (170 ºF)


Put all perishable foods in the fridge as soon as a meal is over. Don’t keep them at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

For foods like ham, lamb, and brisket, carve the remaining meat and store in a small, shallow container in the fridge. Eat leftovers within 3 to 4 days or freeze them.​​

Current as of: February 26, 2018

Author: Environmental Public Health, Alberta Health Services