Tackling a buffet at your game day gathering? Practice these game 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 preparing, eating, or handling food. Also, wash your hands after using the bathroom and touching pets.
- Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops 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 proper temperature gets rid of harmful germs. Use a food thermometer to check meat and microwaved dishes on your menu.
- Make sure chicken wings (and any other poultry) reach a minimum internal temperature of 165°F and that ground beef items reach 160°F.
- Follow frozen food package cooking directions when cooking in microwave.
3. Keep it safe.
- If preparing food in advance, divide cooked food into shallow containers and store in a refrigerator or freezer until the party begins. This encourages rapid, even cooling.
- 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. 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.
- “Cold spots”—areas that are not completely cooked—can harbor germs.
- Always follow directions for the “standing time”— the extra minutes food should rest to finish cooking. Track the time that food stays on the buffet.
- Throw away any perishable foods that have been out at room temperature for two hours or more.
5. Avoid mix-ups. Separate raw meats from ready-to-eat foods like veggies when preparing, serving, or storing foods.
- Make sure to 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 directly from the bowls with dips and salsa.
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 two hours of preparation. It’s OK to put hot foods directly into the refrigerator. Refrigerate leftovers for three to four 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.