Game Day Food Safety Tips

plate of wings celery and carrots for super bowl party

Tackling a buffet at your game day gathering? Play by these rules and keep the runs on the field.

Make sure your game day gathering is memorable for all the right reasons! Follow these six tips to avoid food poisoning:

1. Keep it clean.

2. Cook it well.

Cooking food to the right temperature kills harmful germs. Use a food thermometer to check meat, egg, and microwaved dishes on your menu.

  • Make sure chicken wings (and other poultry) reach an internal temperature of at least 165°F. Ground beef and egg dishes should reach at least 160°F. Check the safe internal temperatureexternal icon for other foods.
  • Follow cooking directions on the package when cooking frozen food in the microwaveexternal icon.

3. Keep it safe.

  • If preparing food in advance, divide cooked food into shallow containersexternal icon to cool. This encourages rapid, even cooling. Put the cooked food in a refrigerator or freezer as soon as possible—always within 2 hours of cooking (1 hour if the outdoor temperature is above 90°F).
  • Keep hot foods at 140°F or warmer. Use chafing dishes, slow cookers, and 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.
  • Getting takeout or delivery? Make sure to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
  • Divide large pots of food, such as soups or stews, and large cuts of meats, such as roasts or whole poultry, into small quantities for refrigeration to allow them to cool quickly and minimize time in the temperature “danger zone” between 40°F and 140°F.

4. Watch the time.

  • Follow recommended cooking and standing timesexternal icon.
    • Areas of the food that are not completely cooked (cold spots) can provide a hiding place for germs.
    • Always follow directions for the standing time—the extra minutes food should rest to finish cooking.
  • Keep track of how long food stays on the buffet.
    • Throw away any perishable foods that have been out at room temperature for 2 hours or more.

5. Avoid mix-ups.

  • Separateexternal icon raw meats from ready-to-eat foods like veggies when preparing, serving, or storing foods.
    • Use separate cutting boards, plates, and knives for produce and for raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs.
  • Offer guests serving utensils and small plates to discourage them from eating dips and salsa directly from the bowls.

6. Store and reheat leftovers the right way.

  • Divide leftovers into smaller portions or pieces, place in shallow containers, and refrigerate or freeze.
  • Refrigerate leftover foods at 40°F or below as soon as possible and within 2 hours of preparation. It’s OK to put hot foods directly into the refrigerator.
  • Refrigerateexternal iconleftovers for 3 to 4 days at most. Freeze leftovers if you won’t be eating them soon.
  • Reheat leftovers to at least 165°F before serving. This includes leftovers warmed up in the microwave.
A Recipe for Fresh Salsa—Remember to Refrigerate!
Mexican Pico de Gallo with ingredients closeup and nachos

Serving salsa on game day? Try this recipe for fresh salsa that uses garlic and lime juice. Remember to refrigerate any homemade salsa until you serve it. Nest the bowl in ice on the serving table or make sure you follow the 2-hour rule.external icon

Ingredients
18 fresh Roma tomatoes
1 medium jalapeño pepper, stem removed
1 small sweet onion, peeled
4 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons fresh garlic
2 ounces fresh lime juice

Directions

  1. Wash your hands, and clean the cutting board and prep area with soap and hot water.
  2. Rinse the tomatoes, jalapeño pepper, and cilantro under running water and dry with a clean paper towel.
  3. Chop the tomatoes into small pieces.
  4. Finely dice the onion, jalapeño pepper, and garlic.
  5. Chop the cilantro leaves into small pieces.
  6. Combine tomatoes, pepper, onion, cilantro, salt, garlic, and lime juice in a bowl and refrigerate until serving time.
  7. Enjoy!

Makes about 2 or 2.5 cups.