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Tips for keeping food safe at parties


Here are a few tips and tricks for keeping food safe for - and from - guests

Plan to cook foods across a variety of ways: slow cooker, oven, microwave, grill, and smoker. Pre-cooked foods can safely be reheated the day of a party if they have been cooked the day before and will be kept appropriately warm during service.

Purchase inexpensive serving trays and storage containers at a discount store. You can't have too many of these. If foods start to look wilted or are reaching the two-hour room temperature limit, then it's time to put them away or toss them.

If you're short on storage space, think about ordering some foods from delis or a favorite restaurant. Arrange for someone to pick them up as the party begins if you don't have fridge space. Another option is to order the food pre-cooked and be ready to pop it in the oven for warming as soon as it arrives.

Check into rentals: plenty of extra glass plates and silverware. More important, chafing dishes and commercial warmers are ideal for keeping hot foods safe. Don't forget extra ice buckets and chillers for cold items.

Space-saving tips:

Invest in ice chests. Keep beer and wine in these to chill. This will leave more fridge space for foods. Replace bagged ice frequently - leave it bagged for less mess.

Use smaller cuts of meats or other foods. If you're planning to grill or smoke ribs the day of the party, trim them a couple of days before. While they're more attractive in full form, it's much safer to cool and cook smaller batches. This will also decrease cooling times if preparing the day before a party.

In your kitchen, strict rules may apply, but when inviting guests into your home, you may not have control over their habits.

-Have plenty of trash containers available. Use trash cans with plastic bags. Make them available for paper plate and plastic utensil disposal. Encourage guests to toss cups, too. This prevents some cross-contamination as guests are disposing of their own goods.

-When using glassware, make sure guests know where to place used plates and glasses. Keep an eye out for stray used utensils, etc., and remove them immediately. Wash after handling.

-Make sure the guest bathrooms are stocked with extra hand towels and a functional soap dispenser. The towels don't have to be fancy or some guests may hesitate to use them. Keep a supply of practical towels to make them more "inviting."

-Keep guests out of the kitchen. Wash your hands and make sure any errant helpers do the same before touching faucets, refrigerator door or oven handles, or touching trays of fresh foods.

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