Question: I am hosting a Super Bowl party for the first time and I want to make sure that my guests have a good time. But, I’m not the best cook in the world. What are some things I should do to make sure I serve good food without getting anyone sick?
Answer: First things first, take a deep breath and relax. Serving up an appetizing buffet for the Big Game isn’t as hard as you may think. Hundreds of thousands of households across the country partake in that time-honored tradition annually. In fact, Super Bowl Sunday is the second largest food consumption day of the year, second only behind Thanksgiving, according to the National Chicken Council.
With that in mind, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers several tips to help you ensure that your guests have a good meal without the fear of food poisoning.
The first step is to wash your hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds before preparing, eating or handling food. Also, if you’re using a cutting board to prepare vegetables for your veggie tray, wash the cutting board or countertops and utensils with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item.
And make sure that you rinse fruits and vegetables – even those you plan to peel – under running water.
Now for the meats. The No. 1 food typically served during a Super Bowl party is chicken wings. In fact, 1.33 billion chicken wings are expected to be consumed Feb. 5 when the New England Patriots take on the Atlanta Falcons, the National Chicken Council says.
Make sure your guests don’t get a foodborne illness, like salmonella poisoning, by ensuring you cook the wings – whether they are baked or fried – to an internal temperature of 165 degrees, recommends the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Use a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the wing for the most accurate reading.
If you are preparing hamburgers using ground beef, make sure the internal temperature reaches at least 160 degrees before serving.
Tips for putting food on the buffet table include:
Keep hot foods at least 140 degrees or warmer using a chafing dish, slow cooker or warming trays.
Keep cold foods at least 40 degrees or colder by using small service trays or serving dishes in bowls of ice, making sure to replace the ice often.
Avoid double dipping (George Costanza!) by providing your guests small plates so that they aren’t eating directly from the bowls containing your dips and salsa.
Make sure you don’t keep any perishable food out on the buffet at room temperature for more than two hours. Cooked food left out longer than two hours can rapidly grow bacteria that will leave the food unsafe to eat, according to the CDC.
Food safety is also important after the party.
Leftovers (if you have any food remaining from your hungry guests!) can be placed in a shallow container and stored in the refrigerator for no more than three to four days. If you don’t plan to eat them within that time frame, the CDC says you can freeze them. Leftover cooked meat or poultry can be stored in the freezer for up to six months.
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