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I put a ham in the fridge to defrost earlier this week. It was from a half-hog custom order we got so I'm not 100% sure but I think the processors said it was cured.

Today I put it on a wood-pellet grill at 325 for 1.5 hours, then 350 for another 0.5 hour when I saw I was running out of time before I had to leave.

I ended up having to take it off as it was taking much longer than I thought to get done. When I took it off (after about 2 hours total) the internal temp read 115 degrees. I went ahead and put it back in the fridge.

My question is can I take this ham and put it back on the grill tomorrow when I have more time to let it get up to 145? Or is that not safe?

Thanks!

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Somebody's going to tag this question as a "duplicate" pretty soon (as we have a lot of questions that address this sort of food safety issue before).

But let me just say briefly that according to standard food-safety recommendations, this is NOT safe. Below around 130F, bacteria will grow in food, and many kinds of harmful bacteria grow the fastest in the range around or a little over 100F, which is where the center of this ham spent a lot of time. Until the ham gets over 130F, those bacteria will not start to be killed off.

When you took the ham off the grill and put in the fridge, it will take the center a long time to cool back down, during which time it will grow even more bacteria. And then tomorrow to heat it back up, it will likely take a few more hours, during which even more bacteria will grow. It may end up spending 6-8 hours total in the "danger zone" where bacteria grow rapidly. If the ham reaches a higher internal temperature for a longer period, that will kill off the living bacteria, but with so many hours in the growth zone with heating and cooling and reheating, those bacteria may leave behind toxins that won't necessarily be destroyed even with higher heat.

All that said, there are fewer bacteria in the center of a large hunk of meat, and cured meats with high-salt content, etc. will slow bacteria growth. So, it's possible (even likely) your ham will be okay to eat. The problem is without knowing how it was processed (and under what conditions), how long it may have sat at other times before you received it at temperatures that would allow bacterial growth, etc., you can't know whether it's safe. That's why food safety organizations have strict recommendations, and they'd say your ham may be unsafe now.

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  • Thanks for this response. The amount of time in the danger zone was my primary concern so your explanation makes sense. I tend to err on the side of caution with these sorts of things as the cost of the food doesn't outweigh the cost of potentially getting ill. – Gavin H Sep 7 '19 at 3:03
  • @GavinH - No problem. One thing I didn't ask for clarification is whether this ham was "fully cooked" when you received it, or merely cured. If "fully cooked" previously, it's even less likely to have significant internal bacteria, and your grill likely would kill any surface bacteria that might have arrived during packaging. These are potential mitigating factors, but I can't be sure of your situation. Just in general, doing a "partial cook" to less than 130F and then cooling and reheating food is never a good option. – Athanasius Sep 7 '19 at 3:26
  • unfortunately I am unsure as to whether or not it was previously fully cooked by the meat processing company. We are having another half hog processed soon so I will certainly be asking them for clarification next time so I know! I went ahead and disposed of the ham to stay on the safe side and now I learned to not underestimate how much time to allow for a full ham to cook in my new grill.. – Gavin H Sep 9 '19 at 12:47
  • Also I realized last night that when I had to leave my house one option may have been to transfer it into a slow cooker on high to finish it so I could have left it on while gone. Live and learn I guess! 🤦‍♂️ – Gavin H Sep 9 '19 at 12:49

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