January 21, 2021

Having a New Year’s Eve Party? Here’s How to Host a Safe Buffet

If you’re having a New Year’s Eve party or an open house for New Year’s Day, the FDA is offering tips on how to host a safe buffet. The most important tip is to watch the time. Perishable foods should be refrigerated after two hours out at room temperature.

Having a New Year's Eve Party? Here's How to Host a Safe Buffet

Also, keep buffet serving portions small. You can keep hot food in the oven set at 200°F to 250°F while you are waiting for more guests to arrive. Discard food that’s been out for more than two hours, wash the serving dishes, and fill with fresh food. Cold back up dishes should be stored in the fridge until you need to refill platters and bowls.

Hot foods should be kept at an internal temperature that is at least 140°F. The danger zone for rapid bacterial growth is 40°F to 140°F. Even if you are keeping hot food on a warmer, some only hold food at 120°F. Check the product label before you buy a warmer to make sure it’s capable of holding food at 140°F or warmer.

You can place plates of cold food on ice to keep them cold, but check that temperature frequently. And keep replenishing the ice as it melts for a safe buffet.

Don’t add new food to an already filled serving dish. Replace nearly empty serving dishes with fresh ones. Also remember that bacteria from people’s hands can contaminate the food.

Some old family recipes, delicious though they are, can be unsafe to eat, especially for people in high risk groups for complications from food poisoning. The most risky foods include those made with raw or lightly cooked eggs and raw flour, including homemade Caesar salad dressing, ice cream, custards, eggnog, some sauces, cookie dough, and truffles. Both raw egg and flour can contain pathogens such as Salmonella and E. coli, which can make people very sick unless they are thoroughly cooked before eating.

You can use pasteurized eggs (follow the expiration date to the letter), or add eggs to the liquid called for in the recipe, then heat until it reaches 160°F on a food thermometer. And don’t serve any recipes made with flour that are not fully cooked.

Finally, remember the four steps for safe food handling: Clean Separate Cook Chill. Clean your hands and kitchen utensils before using them, and rinse fruits and veggies before you prepare them. Separate raw foods such as ground beef from foods that are eaten raw. Always cook to the right temperature and measure that temperature with a food thermometer. And chill foods promptly after two hours at room temperature; one hour if the temperature is above 90°F.

Have a wonderful New Year with these safe buffet tips!

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