Holiday party food safety tips
Holiday parties and get-togethers usually include food! A popular way to serve food at these gatherings is by buffet where food sits out at a table at room temperature and people "graze". This type of food service can contribute to foodborne illness and a bad way to start the New Year! To protect your guests from foodborne illnesses, follow these tips:
Keep hands, kitchen, dishes and utensils clean
- Always wash your hands constantly during the preparation, serving and cleanup.
- Keep your kitchen, dishes and utensils clean. Be sure your serving dishes are clean. Do not serve food on plates that previously held raw meat or poultry.
Cook food thoroughly
- Be sure to cook your food thoroughly. Cook roast beef, pork, veal and lamb to at least 145 degrees F. for medium rare and let stand/rest for 3 minutes before serving; 160 degrees F. for medium well done. Roast poultry to 165 degrees F. or higher. Any foods created from ground meat or hamburger should be cooked to 160 degrees F.
- When serving foods on the buffet table, serve them in or on several small platters rather than on huge platters. Keep the rest of the food in your oven (set at 200 to 250 degrees) or cold in the refrigerator until serving time. This way, the foods will be kept at safe temperatures for a long period of time. When the small platters are empty, replace them rather than add fresh food to a dish that already had food in it. Remember: Many unwashed hands have been taking food from these dishes and the food has been sitting out at room temperature.
Any foods created from ground meat or hamburger should be cooked to 160 degrees F.
- Food should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Throw out anything left there for two hours or more.
Keep hot food hot and cold food cold
- Hot foods should be held at 140 degrees F. or warmer. On the buffet table, keep hot foods hot with chafing dishes, warming trays or slow cookers. Keep the covers on the hot food dishes to keep the heat inside the dish.
- Cold food should be held at 40 degrees or colder. Keep foods cold by nesting dishes in bowls of ice. Otherwise, use smaller serving platters and replace them often.
Leftover food safety
- Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within two hours of serving. If the leftover foods were on your buffet longer than two hours, throw them out.
- Eat your leftovers within a few days. Use your freezer for longer storage. Reheat leftovers to 165 degrees F. Filling a plate of food and microwaving it for a few minutes may seem safe enough, but you need to use a food thermometer to make sure all the food is reheated enough to kill bacteria. Microwave ovens heat unevenly, so let the covered food sit for a minute or two to let the heat get distributed throughout.
Clean up after your party
- Use soap and water to wash the countertops, tables and the refrigerator door handle (one of the dirtiest spots in a busy kitchen). After washing and rinsing off the suds, follow up with a sanitizing solution of one teaspoon of bleach to one quart of water. Spray on the clean surfaces and air-dry (if possible).
Revised February 2011 by Carol Ann Burtness. Peer reviewed by Suzanne Driessen, Extension Educator, University of Minnesota Extension, 2012.