Cooking for Family Gatherings
Welcome to USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service Food Safety at home
podcast series. These podcasts were designed with you in mind - the consumer - who
purchases and prepares meat, poultry and processed egg products
for your family and friends.
Each episode will bring you a different food safety topic ranging from safe storage, handling,
and preparation of meat, poultry and processed egg products to the importance of keeping
foods safe during a power outage.
So sit back, turn up the volume and listen in.
Welcome to “Food Safety at Home.” This is Gertie Hurley with the Food Safety and Inspection
Service. Joining me today is Kathy Bernard from the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline. Welcome
to the show, Kathy.
Thank you Gertie. It’s my pleasure to be here.
(Background sound of people socializing over food
and fade out)
Warm fellowship is an important consideration when cooking for family gatherings. What
brings all the fellowship together so beautifully is the food. Selection and preparation
of the food are pressing decisions when planning the menu. If your family gathering includes
guests sharing the cooking, one guest you don’t want to show up is harmful bacteria that
could make you or your family sick.
In previous episode's we covered the four food safety messages of Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill.
Whether you plan to take food across town or host the gathering in your home, you can
still help keep food safe.
Here are some additional tips to help you have a safe and
When transporting food, keep cold food at or below 40 °F. Place cold food in a cooler
with a cold source such as ice or frozen gel packs. Place an appliance thermometer in
the cooler to ensure that the temperature of the food stays safe. Keep hot food at or
above 140 °F. Wrap the hot food well and place in an insulated container.
If the food has to be reheated, use a food thermometer to make sure the food reaches a
safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F. Bring sauces, soups, and gravies to a rolling
boil. If reheating in a conventional oven, set the oven temperature no lower than 325
When reheating food in the microwave oven, cover and rotate the food for even heating.
Let food “stand” for a few minutes after turning the microwave off or after removing food
from the oven. Always allow standing time before checking the internal temperature of
This is important because the food continues to cook and the cooking is completed during
standing time. Cooking occurs for a longer time in dense foods such as a whole turkey
or beef roast than in less-dense foods like breads, small vegetables, and fruits. During
standing time, the temperature of a food can increase several degrees.
Check your microwave oven owner’s manual for recommended cooking times and power levels.
Reheating food in slow cookers and chafing dishes is NOT recommended because foods may
stay in the “Danger Zone” (which is between 40 and 140 °F) too long as it reheats.
Once food is cooked or reheated, it should be held hot - at 140 °F or above. Cold food
should be held cold - at 40 °F or below. Keep food cold on the buffet table by nesting
serving dishes of food in bowls of ice. Keep cooked or reheated food hot by using heat
sources such as chafing dishes, preheated steam tables, warming trays, or slow cookers.
Use small platters and replace them with fresh refrigerated platters of food often, rather
than adding fresh food to a serving dish already on the table. A great booklet to have
on hand for planning for meals for your family gatherings is Cooking for Groups: A
Volunteer’s Guide to Food Safety. Order single copies of the Guide in English or
Spanish from www.pueblo.gsa.gov.
That’s www.pueblo.gsa.gov. You
may also obtain a copy of the Guide by calling the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline toll-free
number, 1-888-674-6854. Again, that’s 1-888-674-6854.
That’s it for this segment. Kathy Bernard from the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline has joined
me today. Thank you Kathy. I’m Gertie Hurley. I’d like to thank you for joining us for
this episode of “Food Safety at Home” and remember, “Be Food Safe.”
Well, that’s all for this time. Thanks for joining us today for another episode of
food safety at home!
For answers to your food safety questions call USDA's toll-free meat and poultry hotline
at 1-888-mphotline. That’s 1-888-674-6854.
You can also get answers to food safety questions online from our virtual representative
"ask karen" at www.askkaren.gov .
Let us know what you think of this podcast by sending your comments to
Thanks for tuning in.