Food Storage Safety Tips for the Holidays
Follow these 5 easy steps for safe food storage
We all know it’s best to store perishable foods in the refrigerator without letting them sit too long on the table, but that gets tricky during the holidays when dinner lasts longer and guests stay later. To help, we’ve come up with five important food storage safety tips for your next holiday gathering.
1. When preparing food for a party, keep it cold
The key to a great holiday gathering is to prepare! While preparing your food, remember that marinating and defrosting shouldn’t be done at room temperature on the kitchen counter. Do your best to keep your perishable foods in the refrigerator unless your preparing, cooking or serving. Keeping foods properly chilled will slow the growth of harmful bacteria.
2. When serving food, keep it hot or cold
It’s especially important to remember this tip during Thanksgiving when dinner can last several hours. If you’re concerned about hot foods staying hot while serving, use a slow cooker or simmer on the stove. For cold foods, an easy trick is to nest a bowl inside another bowl with ice. In addition to preventing bacteria growth, keeping your food hot during a meal has the added benefit of tasting better when guests have second helpings.
3. Know when and how to transfer cooked leftovers to the refrigerator
In general, perishable leftovers should be transferred to the refrigerator as soon as possible. It’s best to cool hot foods a little before transferring. If you’re trying to cool a large amount of food, separate it into different batches and store in shallow containers (about 2-3 inches deep) for faster and safer cooling. Faster cooling will lessen the chance of bacteria growth while in the refrigerator, and lessen the chance of ice crystals forming while in the freezer. The general rule is to refrigerate foods two hours after cooking, but the sooner the better, especially if it’s warm out.
4. Store food in airtight containers
Bulk purchases, prepared foods, and leftovers should be transferred to sealed, airtight containers for storage. Exposure to air causes food to dry out and spoil sooner, and food in unsealed containers is also tempting to kitchen pests. Some leftovers can be left on the counter and stored at room temperature, like breads and other baked goods, and some don’t need to be in airtight containers. For foods that don’t require cold, airtight storage, see Epicurious’ bread storage tips and Real Simple’s tips for storing baked goods.
5. Store food in safe containers
Use alternatives to plastic, like glass and stainless steel when storing food. If you do use plastic, check the recycling code on the bottom of products and avoid plastics with #3, #6 and #7 which may contain phthalates, styrene and bisphenols. Avoid disposable plastic baggies and plastic wrap, which not only could contain potentially harmful toxins, but also head straight to landfill after use.
Follow our tips, and at the end of your evening send your guests home with leftovers that have been safely cooled and stored! Pack them up in handy reusable leftover-sized takeout containers and include a ice pack for the trip home.