Tackling a buffet at your game day gathering? Play by these rules and keep the runs on the field.
Make sure your game day gathering is memorable for all the right reasons! Follow these six tips to avoid food poisoning:
1. Keep it clean.
- Wash your hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds before, during, and after preparing food and before eating. Also, wash your hands after using the bathroom and touching pets.
- Wash your cutting boards, utensils, and countertops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item.
- Wash or scrub fruits and vegetables under running water—even if you do not plan to eat the peel—so dirt and germs on the surface do not get inside when you cut.
2. Cook it well.
Cooking food to the right temperature kills harmful germs. Use a food thermometer to check meat, egg, and microwaved dishes on your menu.
- Make sure chicken wings (and other poultry) reach an internal temperature of at least 165°F. Ground beef and egg dishes should reach at least 160°F. Check the safe internal temperature for other foods.
- Follow cooking directions on the package when cooking frozen food in the microwave.
3. Keep it safe.
- If preparing food in advance, divide cooked food into shallow containers to cool. This encourages rapid, even cooling. Put the cooked food in a refrigerator or freezer as soon as possible—always within 2 hours of cooking (1 hour if the outdoor temperature is above 90°F).
- Keep hot foods at 140°F or warmer. Use chafing dishes, slow cookers, and warming trays to keep food hot on the buffet table.
- Keep cold foods, like salsa and guacamole, at 40°F or colder. Use small service trays or nest serving dishes in bowls of ice.
- Getting takeout or delivery? Make sure to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
- Divide large pots of food, such as soups or stews, and large cuts of meats, such as roasts or whole poultry, into small quantities for refrigeration to allow them to cool quickly and minimize time in the temperature “danger zone” between 40°F and 140°F.
4. Watch the time.
- Follow recommended cooking and standing times.
- Areas of the food that are not completely cooked (cold spots) can provide a hiding place for germs.
- Always follow directions for the standing time—the extra minutes food should rest to finish cooking.
- Keep track of how long food stays on the buffet.
- Throw away any perishable foods that have been out at room temperature for 2 hours or more.
5. Avoid mix-ups.
- Separate raw meats from ready-to-eat foods like veggies when preparing, serving, or storing foods.
- Use separate cutting boards, plates, and knives for produce and for raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs.
- Offer guests serving utensils and small plates to discourage them from eating dips and salsa directly from the bowls.
6. Store and reheat leftovers the right way.
- Divide leftovers into smaller portions or pieces, place in shallow containers, and refrigerate or freeze.
- Refrigerate leftover foods at 40°F or below as soon as possible and within 2 hours of preparation. It’s OK to put hot foods directly into the refrigerator.
- Refrigerate leftovers for 3 to 4 days at most. Freeze leftovers if you won’t be eating them soon.
- Reheat leftovers to at least 165°F before serving. This includes leftovers warmed up in the microwave.