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Food Temperatures

If in doubt, throw it out!

Foods that are potentially hazardous need to be refrigerated to minimize bacterial growth. Refrigerator temperatures are to be maintained at 41° F or less and foods should not be kept longer than 7 days in the refrigerator. When presenting foods (serving) in a buffet style, cold foods like potato salad or cold meats, are to be kept chilled to less than or equal to 41° F.  Hot foods, like hamburgers and cooked vegetables, are to be maintained at a temperature greater than or equal to 135° F.

Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold (above 135° F or below 41° F)

Arrange for pick-up or delivery of meals so you can eat the food almost immediately, when maximum quality and safety can be ensured

If you have to hold the food for any length of time (over two hours) , keep it HOT, which means the food must have an internal temperature above 135° F. Just keeping it warm doesn't ensure safety

What if I pick up the food in the morning, but won't serve it until evening?

  • If you are eating much later, the food will taste better and be safer if you refrigerate and reheat it just before serving​
  • Divide large quantities into shallow containers (2” or less) for quick cooling, cover loosely, and refrigerate immediately​
  • Always reheat cooked foods or leftovers until they are hot and steaming (165° F)

What about salads, deli meats and foods that are purchased or delivered cold?​

  • ​Remember to keep cold foods COLD (41° F or below). The life of most deli meats and foods is short. Roast beef, chicken breast, and turkey have a shorter refrigerator life than processed meats or cold cuts
  • Buy reasonable quantities
  • If food won't be served soon, refrigerate it immediately​
  • Properly wrap and freeze deli meats that won't be used within two to four days
  • If entertaining, set out small amounts at a time and replace with fresh platters (rather than adding fresh food to a dish that already has food on it)
  • Keep food cold on the buffet table by nesting dishes in bowls of ice
  • REMEMBER most food poisoning bacteria can NOT be seen, smelled, or tasted​

Last updated 11/14/2019 4:47 AM