Keep food safety top of mind during celebrations to help ensure your family’s holidays are healthy and merry.
During the holidays, you likely prepare, serve and store foods differently than during other times of the year. The following seasonal food-safety refreshers can help make sure your buffet passes inspection.
- Pay attention to temperatures. If your turkey is juicy and brown, you may believe it’s ready for serving. But the only accurate way to determine if a food has finished cooking is to measure its internal temperature. A whole turkey or chicken is considered done when its temperature—measured by inserting a food thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh—reaches 165° F. Also strive for this temperature when warming leftovers or foods prepared ahead of time. Holiday hams should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145° F.
When serving items on a homemade buffet, use slow cookers or warming trays to keep hot foods at a temperature of 140° F. Place salads and other refrigerated items on ice to keep them cool.
- Ensure buffet freshness. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends using small serving dishes when creating serving platters for your buffet and refilling them as necessary. This allows extras to remain in the fridge or on the stove, where safe temperatures are easier to maintain. When refilling serving dishes, discard food remaining on the platters first to prevent bacteria from possibly contaminating the fresh food.
- Employ the two-hour rule. Store leftovers in the refrigerator in small, airtight containers within two hours of serving. Throw away food that has been sitting out for more than two hours, including pumpkin pie and other sweet treats that typically require refrigeration.
- Use leftovers wisely. Foods that are moldy or have taken on an odor are obviously spoiled and shouldn’t be eaten. But most bacteria that pose a threat to your family’s health don’t affect the smell or appearance of food.
As a general rule, you shouldn’t keep leftovers in your refrigerator for more than three or four days. If you don’t think you’ll eat your leftovers within that time, freeze them. You can safely store leftovers in the freezer for up to six months.