Score Big: Six Game Rules for a Food-Safe Buffet
Tackling a buffet at your Super Bowl gathering? Practice these game rules and keep the runs on the field.
Super Bowl Sunday is an American tradition of football, friends, and food. In fact, it's a daylong food fest, that--next to Thanksgiving Day—is the second largest day for food consumption in the US.1 While chicken wings, chips, and dips are consistent favorites on Super Bowl buffets, make sure that germs are a "no-show" by following these six tips to avoid food poisoning.
1. Keep it clean.
- Wash your hands with soap and running water (warm or cold) for at least 20 seconds before eating and handling food—especially after passing the TV's germy remote control! Also wash your hands after using the bathroom and touching pets.2
- Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item.
- Rinse produce [362 KB] under running water, including those with inedible skins and rinds. For firm-skin fruits and vegetables, rub by hand or scrub with a clean vegetable brush while rinsing.
2. Cook it well.
- Use a food thermometer to test Super Bowl party favorites, like chicken wings and ground beef sliders, and any other meat or microwaved dishes on your menu.
- Make sure chicken wings (and any other poultry dish) reach a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F and ground beef sliders reach 160 °F.3
- Refer to the Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures chart for the "rest time" of meats—the period after cooking when the temperature remains constant or continues to rise and destroys germs.
- Good news for your super hungry guests: chicken wings and ground beef sliders don't require rest times!
3. Keep it safe.
- Divide cooked food into shallow containers and store in a refrigerator or freezer until the party begins. This encourages rapid, even cooling…and discourages pre-party nibblers.
- Hold hot foods at 140 °F or warmer. Use chafing dishes, slow cookers, and warming trays to keep food hot on the buffet table.
- Maintain cold foods , like salsa and guacamole, at 40 °F or colder. Nest serving dishes in bowls of ice or use small serving trays. Replace often.
4. Watch the time.
- Follow recommended microwave cooking and standing times.
- "Cold spots"—areas that are not completely cooked--can harbor germs.
- Always follow the "standing time," the extra minutes that food should stand in the microwave to complete the cooking process. Then check the internal temperature with a food thermometer.
- Track the time that food stays on the buffet.
- Sideline anything that has been out at room temperature for two hours or more.
5. Avoid mix-ups.
- Separate raw meats from ready-to-eat foods, like veggies, when preparing, serving, or storing foods.
- Offer guests serving utensils and small plates to discourage them from eating directly from the bowls with dips and salsa.
- Throw a penalty flag at double-dippers (folks who repeatedly eat or dip from a shared food dish)!
6. Get it to-go.
- Discard any foods on the buffet for two hours or more.
- Divide leftovers into smaller portions or pieces, place in shallow containers, and refrigerate.
- Don't wait too long to enjoy your leftovers. Refrigerate them for three to four days, at most. Freeze them, if you won't be eating your leftovers sooner.
A Recipe for Fresh Salsa—Remember to Refrigerate!
Here's a winning recipe for fresh salsa4 that uses fresh garlic and fresh lime juice to protect against Salmonella. Even with this extra built-in protection, we recommend refrigerating the salsa until it's time to serve. Nest the bowl in ice once it's on the serving table or make sure you follow the two-hour rule.
18 fresh Roma tomatoes
1 medium Jalapeno pepper, stem removed
1 small Vidalia onion, peeled
4 tablespoons of cilantro
1 ½ teaspoons of salt
2 tablespoons of fresh garlic
2 ounces of fresh lime juice
- Wash your hands and clean the cutting board and prep area with soap and water.
- Rinse the tomatoes, Jalapeno pepper, and cilantro under running water.
- Chop up the tomatoes into small pieces.
- Finely dice the onion, Jalapeno pepper, and garlic.
- Slice the cilantro into small pieces.
- Combine all ingredients (don't forget the garlic and lime juice!) into a bowl and refrigerate until serving time.
- Page last reviewed: January 27, 2014
- Page last updated: January 27, 2014
- Content source:
- National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases
- Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs