Keeping Food Safe if Guests Are Delayed

You’ve planned a great party with a lot of tasty dishes for your guests to enjoy. But what happens if your guests are delayed? Do you know what to do with all the food you prepared to make sure it stays safe to eat?

If Guests Are Delayed Less Than an Hour

If hot foods are in the oven and guests are expected to arrive within the hour, the food can usually be held safely in the oven. Put a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the meat or in the center of other dishes and adjust the oven temperature so that the food stays at an internal temperature of at least 140° F. To prevent food from drying out, cover the dishes or wrap with aluminum foil.

Cold foods should be kept refrigerated until just before serving.

If Guests Are Delayed for More Than an Hour

Hot foods may dry out if kept in a warm oven for more than an hour. If guests are delayed for more than an hour, separate the food in shallow containers and store in the refrigerator. When the guests arrive, reheat the food to an internal temperature of 165° F. Cold foods should be kept in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.

If Guests Cancel

If you thawed raw meat or poultry but didn't start the cooking process, the meat can be safely refrozen provided it was thawed in the refrigerator. If the meat or poultry was previously frozen, the quality may decrease if frozen a second time, but it would be safe as bacteria do not grow in the freezer. If thawed using a microwave, the meat must be cooked thoroughly before refreezing.

If you plan to reschedule the party, poultry and ground meats can be refrigerated for two days and red meats like roasts and steaks for up to five days.

If the Party Is Rescheduled

If the party is rescheduled within three to four days, cooked foods can be stored safely in the refrigerator. For longer storage, freeze any cooked meat or casserole in shallow, airtight containers or wrap tightly with foil or freezer wrap. Cooked foods can usually be stored in the freezer for three to four months.

Most side dishes can also be frozen, although those containing cream sauces may become lumpy when frozen and reheated. When reheating any cooked foods, be sure the internal temperature reaches at least 165° F.