Hosting a Holiday Dinner

Holidays are a time of celebration with family and friends. A sure way to damper the festive mood is the presence of foodborne illnesses. View this video tips to help make sure that you avoid foodborne illness at your dinner parties and keep it from becoming an uninvited guest at your next holiday gathering

Here are the top five things to remember:

  • Buy and thaw food safely
  • Clean your kitchen
  • Prepare the food properly Avoid cross-contamination
  • Cook food to proper temperature
  • Promptly store leftovers

Shop Safely

When purchasing food for your holiday dinner, buy nonperishable items first and shop for cold and ready-to-eat foods right before heading for the checkout. Avoid buying foods past the expiration date or 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 as they will not thaw evenly and harmful bacteria may grow in the defrosted part of the food. Pre-packaged frozen items can be thawed safely in the refrigerator or in cold water. You can also use a microwave’s defrost setting if you plan to finish cooking the food right away. Many frozen foods can be cooked immediately as directed on the packaging, although additional cooking time may be needed.

Disinfect Countertops and Sinks

It’s important to avoid spreading germs in your kitchen as you cook. Cross-contamination can be caused by using the same utensils or cutting boards for both raw and ready-to-eat foods. Thoroughly wash cutting boards, utensils, countertops and sinks with hot soapy water and sanitize between each use.

Wash your hands frequently with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, especially before and after handling any raw or uncooked foods or produce.

Keep Hot Foods Hot, Cold Foods Cold

Hot foods should be kept in the oven or on a warmer until ready to eat. Hot foods need to be held at 140° F or warmer. Use chafing dishes, slow cookers and warming trays on the buffet table to keep foods warm.

Cold foods should be kept refrigerated until just before serving. Cold foods need to be held at 40° F or colder to keep bacteria from growing. Keep foods cold by nesting dishes in bowls of ice.

If you don’t already have a food thermometer, consider one certified by NSF International to ensure your food is kept at a safe temperature.

Remember the Two-Hour Rule

If your guests are delayed, remember these steps. Never let perishable foods sit out at room temperature for more than two hours (or one hour if the temperature outside or in the house exceeds 90° F).

Hot foods can usually be held safely in the oven for up to an hour. Adjust the oven temperature so that the food stays at 140° F, and cover dishes to keep foods from drying out. For longer delays, it’s best to place cooked foods in shallow containers and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Once your guests arrive, reheat hot foods to an internal temperature of at least 165° F. Cold foods should be kept in the refrigerator until dinner is ready to be served.

Store Leftovers Safely

Leftover storage is just as important as preparing and cooking your meal. Separate large quantities of leftovers into smaller containers and place in the refrigerator. If you are unable to eat refrigerated leftovers within three to four days, they should be frozen or discarded. Learn more about handling leftovers safely.