The simple solution to home entertaining with food safety in mind is serving cold foods in place of hot foods. Hot foods must be kept at 140 degrees or warmer to stave off bacteria growth. This requires burners, buffet trays and a food thermometer. There is nothing fun about constantly taking the temperature of that tray of macaroni and cheese instead of enjoying a glass of wine and conversation. Here are some tips on keep foods cold so the party can go on until dawn without one thermometer or trip to the emergency room for food poisoning.
Keeping Loose Foods Cold and Preventing Food Poisoning
Keep loose foods in waterproof bags in chest coolers with ice to prevent food poisoning. Foods like steamed shrimp, grape tomatoes, grapes, vegetable sticks and chicken salad can be kept in large, food safe, plastic bags and stored in a chest cooler with plenty of ice. Mark the outside of each bag with a permanent marker and add some sea salt to the ice to keep it colder, longer. The food will not freeze, but it will stay well below the safe temperature of 41 degrees.
Keeping Complete Dishes Cold to Fight Off Food Borne Bacteria
Dishes that require a complete presentation, like five layer dip, should be kept in plastic containers with waterproof lids to prevent food poisoning. These containers should be placed on a bed of salted ice and covered with ice. A straw can be placed into the ice directly above where the container is resting with a small note attached to the end of the straw so dishes can be located quickly.
Keeping Countertop Dishes Cold For Serving
Inevitably, foods will be removed from the chest coolers and displayed during meal or snack time. The bag or plastic container needs to be removed from the chest cooler and rinsed off to remove excess salt. The dish then needs to be placed in an iced display on the counter to prevent food poisoning. Iced displays can be created from aluminum baking trays filled with ice and salt. Make sure the serving dish is nestled deep into the ice. If loose food is being served, stir often to keep all food below 41 degrees. If a complete dish is being served, choose smaller containers to display food so the dish can be changed out often to prevent food poisoning.
Just because the entire dinner party is focused on cold foods to prevent food poisoning does not mean it will be less of a success. A great bottle of chilled wine goes well with fruits and cheeses, perfect selections for cold hors d’oeuvres. Chicken salad can be dressed up with artichokes and raisins while cous cous can be chilled and served with grape tomatoes, olives, cucumbers and an awesome balsamic vinaigrette and steal the show all from the coldest depths of food safety.