Cooking For A Crowd
Food Safety Tips for Entertaining
Recipes for Quantity Cooking

Food Safety Tips for Entertaining

Whether it's a buffet for a large group or a family party, when we are cooking for people we care about, we want to present the perfect meal and to keep them safe. But all too often cooking and serving food for groups can result in unintended gastrointestinal consequences. Whether it's a buffet for a large group or a family party, when we are cooking for people we care about, we want to present the perfect meal and to keep them safe. But all too often cooking and serving food for groups can result in unintended gastrointestinal consequences. So, when you plan to entertain, plan food safety into your meal preparation.

By following some basic food safety precautions while storing, preparing and serving food, we can ensure that our guests will be well fed and protected at the same time.

Food Safety experts at the U.S. Department of Agriculture caution that party buffets can pose a special hazard. Foods served in this way are often left out for long periods of time, making them susceptible to harmful bacteria. Unlike microorganisms that can cause food to spoil, bacteria cannot be smelled or tasted. Poultry, especially turkey, and ground beef are two popular meats to serve at gatherings, but they are also very likely to carry bacteria such as salmonella and e-coli that cause foodborne illnesses.

The USDA offers the following guidelines for preventing the spread of bacteria through food:

* Always wash hands before and after handling food. All kitchen utensils and dishes should be kept clean and washed with soap, not just rinsed, when you switch from one food to another during the preparation process. Food should be served on clean plates that have not been used for raw meat.

* Cook food thoroughly to safe temperatures. Good meat thermometers (designed for each kind of meat) are essential.

For testing your turkey, which should be cooked to 180 degrees for a whole bird, use a programmable digital thermometer like those offered by Acu-Rite. It has a probe that you place in the roast and a monitor that sticks to the outside of the oven with magnets or can be placed on the countertop for easy reading. The probe and monitor are attached by a 3-foot long ovenproof cord. So, you can monitor your meat temperature without ever opening the oven. It comes preprogrammed to USDA standards for a variety of foods and has an automatic alarm to let you know when your meat is done.

Roast beef, veal and lamb should be cooked to at least 145 degrees for medium rare doneness. The Acu-Rite combination oven/meat thermometer gives both the ambient temperature of the oven and the internal temperature of the roast on a single face. It is perfect for the cook who prefers a traditional dial face, but wants the convenience and safety of precise temperature readings.

For ground beef, which should be cooked to 160 degrees, try a specially designed burger thermometer. The SureGrip Digital Burger Probe from Acu-Rite is designed to ensure that proper readings of burger patties. It features a bent tip, long stem, and an easy-to-grip handle that also provides ease of use.

* Use shallow containers to store food in the refrigerator or freezer. This ensures that when it is heated it will cool rapidly and evenly. Hot foods should be reheated to 165 degrees, and should be served on several small platters rather than on one platter. The rest of the hot food should be kept in the oven at 200 to 250 degrees or in the refrigerator until serving time. This will ensure that foods will be held at a safe temperature for the longest time possible. When buffet platters become empty, replace them rather than adding fresh food to a dish that has been sitting out. Food may have become contaminated from being at room temperature too long, and from contact with people's hands.

* Keep track of your buffet table: Don't allow foods to sit at room temperature for more than two hours.

* Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Hot foods should be held at 140 degrees or warmer. Chafing dishes, slow cookers and warming trays will do the trick. Cold foods, which should be at 40 degrees or colder, can be kept in bowls of ice, or should be replaced often.

With just a few simple precautions, cooks can ensure that their parties are remembered only for the good food and company.

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