Dear Peggy: I entertain a lot in the summer, and I'm always concerned about how long food sits out. What are some ways to help keep everything safe? —M.S., Allston, Massachusetts
There are two keys to food safety: (1) Keep cold foods cold and (2) keep hot foods hot while both kinds are being served. Keep these tips in mind:
- Bring foods out of refrigeration just before serving.
- Use small serving dishes and store extra chilled food in the refrigerator for replenishing.
- Nestle serving bowls inside larger dishes filled with crushed ice. Stir salads from time to time to keep them evenly chilled.
- Cook foods as close as possible to serving time.
- For large parties, cook or grill food in batches.
- Hold extra hot food in a 200º oven or slow cooker for replenishing serving dishes.
- Refrigerate perishables within 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature is above 90º).
- Have an assortment of containers on hand for leftovers for quick and easy cleanup.
- Use shallow storage containers to cool foods quickly.
- Avoid overfilling your fridge. It stops cool air from circulating.