Hosting a Safe Holiday Dinner
Family dinners and parties where food is served are a big part of the holiday season. To keep foodborne illness from becoming an uninvited guest at your next gathering, follow these safety tips.
When purchasing food for your holiday dinner, shop for cold and ready-to-eat foods right before heading for the checkout. Avoid foods where the packaging has been damaged. If ordering food for delivery, make sure someone is home to receive the food and that it is delivered cold.
Thaw Frozen Items Properly
Frozen foods should never be thawed at room temperature. Wrapped frozen items can be thawed safely in the refrigerator or in cold water. You can also use a microwave if you plan to finish cooking the food right away. Many frozen foods can be cooked from the frozen state, although additional cooking time is needed.
Avoid Cross Contamination
Never use the same utensils or cutting boards for both raw and ready-to-eat foods unless they are thoroughly washed with hot soapy water between each use.
Wash Hands Often
The best thing we can do to not only limit cross contamination but to reduce the spread of illness is to wash our hands – frequently and often. Wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling any raw foods.
Disinfect Countertops and Sinks
In addition to washing utensils and other food preparation equipment between each use, regularly wash and sanitize countertop surfaces and sinks as well.
Keep Hot Foods Hot, Cold Foods Cold
Perishable foods need to be kept out of the danger zone between 40º and 140º F. Cold foods should be kept refrigerated until just before serving, and then placed on a bed of ice. Hot foods should be kept in the oven or on a warmer.
Remember the Two-Hour Rule
Never let perishable foods sit out at room temperature for more than two hours (or one hour if the temperature exceeds 90º F).
Store Leftovers Safely
Large quantities of leftovers should be placed in smaller containers in the refrigerator for quicker cooling. Leftovers can be frozen. If refrigerated, they should be consumed within three to four days or discarded.