Hot, Cold and Clean: Food Safety for Your Next Get-Together

This page has been automatically translated from English. MSDH has not reviewed this translation and is not responsible for any inaccuracies.

Keep it Clean

Clean hands, tools and surfaces before you start cooking.

  • Wash your hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds before preparing, eating, or handling food.
  • Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item.
  • Wash or scrub fruits and vegetables under running water – even if you do not plan to eat the peel – so dirt and germs on the surface do not get inside when you cut.
  • Separate meats from other foods. Use a separate cutting board and tools, or wash them thoroughly before moving on to prepare other foods.

Cook It Well

Cooking to the right temperature helps kill harmful germs. Use a meat thermometer to be sure of temperatures.

  • Use a food thermometer to check meat and microwaved dishes on your menu.
  • Cook chicken to an internal temperature of at least 165°F, and ground beef to at least 160°F.
  • Fish and whole cuts of beef or pork should be cooked to at least 145°F internal temperature.
  • Microwaving frozen food packages? Follow the cooking directions closely to make sure cooking is thorough.

Store Safely

Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold!

  • Small containers cool faster. If preparing food in advance, divide cooked food into shallow containers and store in a refrigerator or freezer until the party begins.
  • Keep hot foods at 140°F or warmer. Use slow cookers or warming trays to keep food hot on the buffet table.
  • Keep cold foods, like salsa and guacamole, at 40°F or colder. Use small service trays or nest serving dishes in bowls of ice.

Watch the Time

Two hours is the safe limit for unrefrigerated food.

  • Don't wait more than two hours after preparing food to refrigerate it.
  • Don't leave food out for serving more than two hours (one hour if it's a hot day). Leftovers that are properly refrigerated can usually keep for several days. Even better, freeze them for longer storage.

Tips: Keep foods cold on the road

  • Pack your cooler just before you hit the road. If you pack meat and poultry while it is still frozen it will stay colder longer.
  • Pack foods in your cooler in reverse-use order: pack foods first that you are likely to use last. By doing this, you avoid having to unpack and repack the cooler along the way.
  • Pack lots of ice or freezer packs to ensure a constant cold temperature. A full cooler will maintain a cold temperature longer than one that is partially filled.
  • Keep drinks in a separate cooler from foods. The beverage cooler will be opened frequently while the food cooler stays closed.
  • Take perishable foods in the smallest quantity needed and pack only the amount of food you think you'll use. Consider taking along non-perishable foods and snacks that don't need to be refrigerated.
  • Don't let food sit out for more than two hours. On a hot day (90° F or higher), food should not be out for more than one hour. When the picnic is over, discard all perishable foods that have been out for two hours or more.
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Last reviewed on Sep 4, 2019
Mississippi State Department of Health 570 East Woodrow Wilson Dr Jackson, MS 39216 866-HLTHY4U Contact and information

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