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Here’s how to make your food the star of the show and not a show-stopper.

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If you’re the host of this year’s holiday dinner or get-together, you have more to do than just inviting guests, planning the menu and preparing the food. You also need to think about food safety so everyone leaves at the end of the festivities feeling as good – or better – as when they arrived.

Not only do you want food to taste good and look attractive, but you also need to take steps to make sure food is safe to eat – especially if you plan on serving food buffet-style. After all, nobody enjoys a holiday gathering if they get sick from what they eat.

The video below provides valuable tips from a food safety educator on how to safely serve food. The tips primarily cover why it’s important to keep hot food hot and cold food cold, as well as the best ways to do it safely.

Hot Food:

  • Hot food should be kept above 135°F.
  • Use a chafing dish to keep hot foods hot.
  • Pour hot water into the chafing dish. To avoid dangerous splashing, carry the hot water in a teapot.
  • If there is no built-in cup holder for the canned heat, place it on a saucer under the dish. Do not put canned heat directly on the table because it can burn the table or start a fire.
  • Use the lid of the canned heat to set the height of the flame (the more closed the lid, the smaller the flame).
  • Once the chafing dish has heated up, place a hot pan of food inside.
  • Keep the dish covered to retain heat.
  • When it’s time to replenish food, use a new pan and new serving utensil. Never top off the old food in the pan with new food.

Cold Food:

  • Keep cold food at 41°F or below.
  • Serve cold food in metal or ceramic bowls over an ice bath. Do not use plastic containers because they do not keep food cold as effectively.

Other Serving Tips:

  • Reduce cross-contamination by providing spoons in all dips and replacing utensils every four hours.
  • Keep a supply of fresh plates at your buffet table so your guests can use a new plate if they return for seconds.
  • Food that has been left out without proper temperature control should be discarded after two hours.

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Date Last Reviewed: August 28, 2019

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Mike McCombe; Chef, Certified Food Safety Educator

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