Improperly prepared or handled food can derail any holiday party. Below are several tips from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service to ensure the foods you share with your friends and family keep everyone in the holiday spirit.
Transporting Your Holiday Dish — If you're transporting a meal from one location to another, temperature is important. When transporting hot dishes, wrap them well and pack in an insulated container. Upon arrival, use the stove, oven or microwave to reheat food to 165° F.
When transporting cold foods, use a cooler with ice or freezer gel packs. Be sure to store food in watertight containers to prevent contact with melting ice water and carry your cooler in the trunk, which is usually colder than other parts of the car.
Serving Your Meal — When serving your meal, keep foods out of the "danger zone" by keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold. If you are serving hot foods on a buffet, keep the foods hot with chafing dishes, slow cookers or warming trays. Make sure they are heated to at least 165° F. Cold foods can be kept cold by nesting the serving dishes into bowls of ice or use small serving trays with smaller portions of food and replace as needed. It's important that cold foods are held at 40° F or colder.
Leftovers — After the fun is over, don't forget to discard all perishable foods, such as meat, poultry and casseroles left at room temperature longer than two hours. Immediately refrigerate or freeze remaining leftovers in shallow containers.
USDA's FoodKeeper app provides more details about how long leftovers can be stored, with storage guidance on more than 400 items and cooking tips for meat, poultry, seafood and eggs.
Consumers can learn more about key food safety practices at Foodsafety.gov, or by following @USDAFoodSafety on Twitter. Consumers with questions about food safety can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854), or chat live with a food safety specialist in English or Spanish at AskKaren.gov.