"If you like it then you shoulda put a lid on it..." Beyonce's song goes something like that, doesn't it? Well, if not, the Summer food safety mantra sure does!
Let's take this quiche as an example.
Say I wanted to bring this to an outdoor party for an appetizer.
I plan to make the quiche at home in advance of the party, using good food practices covered in an earlier blog posting (check under topic "Education" to pull out similar posts).
It's now a hot quiche straight out of the oven. Am I going to serve it immediately? No. The party is several hours from now so I immediately refrigerate the quiche.
Principle 1. Get your previously heated foods out of the temperature danger zone as quickly as possible. The temperature danger zone is between 41 degrees and 135 degrees Fahrenheit. It's called the"temperature danger zone" because that it the temperature at which bacteria replicate most quickly.
Think about it, you just killed bacteria in the baked quiche by baking it and raising the internal temperature over 165 degrees. But your kitchen isn't sterile, so you try to mitigate recontamination by getting your food covered and into the refrigerator.
Now you have to decide if you want to have that quiche served cold or heated. If it's going to be re-heated, you'll have to reheat at your hostess' house so make sure you plan that with your hostess in advance.
Principle 2. You must reheat previously heated foods to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
Since you don't want to stress out your hostess with one more thing, you thoughtfully decide that chilled quiche appetizer would be yummy. So, you will follow Prinicple 1 again by keeping your food out of the danger zone by transporting it chilled in a cooler packed with ice to the party.
Once at the party, make sure your chilled food is eaten cold by serving it immediately or keep it cold by placing it on ice. And keep a lid on it! Or at least use some covering that will prevent random insects from contaminating your food.
Food will get contaminated--through handling with utensils touched by many, by inadvertent touching during self-serving, but again--we are trying to prevent bacteria from multiplying and causing food-borne illness. So, reduce the risk by keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold! Both hot and cold need to be kept out of the danger zone--41 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit.
If food is going to be kept out buffet-style for longer periods of time, it's wise to check the internal temperature of foods with a thermometer (and be careful not to cross-contaminate!).
Every year we hear about the potato salad or deviled eggs at a picnic causing food-borne illness. Sometimes the food preparer directly contaminated the food by
- failing to wash their hands,
- preparing food while ill or with open wounds or
- failing to prep the food safely.
The world is not sterile so we still have to follow all the rules when preparing food that is served to others. And the risks can be reduced with a commitment to the above principles.