by Krystal Hawks, ETC blog contributor
The holiday season is upon us and that means being surrounded by family and friends with, what seems like, endless amounts of the best family recipes, traditions, and new creations! So how do you safely store them in order to prevent making this a holiday to remember from the bathroom?
Follow these quick and easy steps to promote food safety and prevent any food-borne illnesses’ from crashing your party!
First things first…during your party keep the hot food hot and the cold food cold. The temperature danger zone is between 41-140° F, meaning this is when food is most susceptible to bacteria growth and breeding food-borne illnesses! For more information on the temperature danger zone, check out the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service website!
Use chafing dishes, crock pots, or ice trays to keep foods the temperatures they are supposed to be.
Another way to outsmart this danger zone is by keeping smaller portions of food out, by using smaller serving dishes and replacing them often!
Look at the thermometers! Your refrigerator should be between 32-40° F, and your freezer should be 0°F or below.
Refrigerate food within two hours of cooking, the cold temperatures of the fridge rapidly decrease the growth of those illness-causing bacteria.
Divide and store your leftovers in airtight, shallow containers which cool your foods more quickly, allowing them to be in the temperature danger zone for less time, and less susceptible to those harmful bacteria.
Separate the stuffing from the turkey and store them individually so they can each cool faster.
Wrap leftover hard cheeses in wax paper, foil, or loose plastic.
When storing any dairy products that were in individual serving dishes, don’t put them back in their original packages. Put the milk in a pitcher, the sour cream in a container, etc., and store them that way.
Keep your fruits and your vegetables separate! Different fruits and vegetables emit different gases that could cause others to ripen and deteriorate faster.
Once a food from a can is opened, refrigerate them in a different container. Once a can is opened, residual metal on the rim can leach into your food and leave a metallic taste…that’s not in great grandma’s secret recipe!
If food has been left out for two or more hours, pitch it! The possibility of bacteria growth increases after cooking because the temperature drop let’s bacteria thrive.
Very simply, if you buy something cold, it needs to stay cold!
Lastly and most importantly, don’t over-stuff the fridge with leftovers! Having too full of a fridge doesn’t permit the cool air to circulate like it should, making it take longer for the food to reach a safe temperature.
Use refrigerated leftovers within two days. Remember, you can safely freeze just about anything! Place the food in an airtight container, or wrap it completely so the cold air won’t dry it out and cause freezer burn. Keep in mind that foods with a high-water content, like strawberries and tomatoes will turn squishy once they’re frozen and thawed, but are still safe to cook with!
Some additional things to keep in mind…
Cling wrap can be a used to help you save all those leftovers! Check the box for what foods they recommend wrapping up! Just remember not to use cling wrap on anything if it can melt into the food.
Aluminum foil is also useful for wrapping and saving foods! Though, it’s not best to use with highly acidic foods, like tomatoes, or cabbage. This is because it can affect the taste of these foods, especially if it is stored for a long time.
Although some of these practices may seem a bit over-dramatic, it’s better to stay safe than be sorry! A common misconception is that food is still good unless it has a foul smell or taste. That’s isn’t true! You actually can’t see, smell, or taste the bacteria that causes food poisoning.
Take into account these tips and tricks as you gear up for the holiday season, and implement some new “holiday traditions” if these practices are new to you. At the end of the day, we are all doing our best. Don’t give up. Love yourself. And #eatthechocolate.
Krystal is an undergraduate student at Kent State University studying Nutrition and Exercise Science. She has a passion for working out and making healthier alternatives to her family’s recipes. Her ultimate career goal is to become a Sports Dietitian and show active individuals the importance of a balanced diet, that it doesn’t have to be boring, and all the benefits of well-being and health!