6 Tips for Hosting a Holiday Gathering 

This holiday season, we are all so excited to see friends and family that we probably haven’t in a really long time. It’s the perfect opportunity to reconnect, eat great food, and bask in all the things we’re thankful for.

While serving food “buffet-style” can help make entertaining a large number of guests more enjoyable, there is more risk for illness. Whether you’re the host for this year’s get-togethers, or a guest helping out, here are some things to watch out for to ensure a safe holiday.  

Wash All Kitchen Utensils 

Utensils used in the kitchen can contribute to cross contamination if they are not washed frequently throughout the day. Utensils like knives, spoons, tongs, and others should be washed after they come into contact with raw meat. They should also be washed after they touch dirty surfaces like an unwashed counter.

Utensils that are brought from the food serving area to the kitchen should likewise be cleaned thoroughly. Washing the utensils often prevents them from contaminating food and passing along illnesses.  

Keep All Surfaces Clean and Disinfected 

Germs can travel fast. When you, a family member, or friend touches an infected surface, the germs can be transmitted quickly to other surfaces and eventually to the food that you are serving.

You can prevent the transmission of dangerous germs like bacteria, viruses, and fungi by keeping all of the surfaces at your event location clean and disinfected at all times. You should use cleaning disinfectants that are approved by the EPA such as Bioesque’s Botanical Disinfectant. You should also wipe down surfaces before and after you put out any food for consumption.

You should clean surfaces like the tables on which your guests eat as well as the chairs, sinks in the bathroom, and condiment and utensil trays. Restaurant-grade cleaning products can keep surfaces clean and disinfected for several hours after they are used. Bioesque is a great option, while also being safe for food preparation surfaces.

Have a Properly Set Up Buffet 

The food tables are a key place where you must make sure that foods and germs don’t cross. Double check that there are plenty of serving utensils to help your guests serve themselves without mixing foods from different dishes. Also, be sure to provide a serving spoon and plates or bowls for dips and salsas. Placing chips and dips at opposite ends of the buffet table may also help discourage “double-dipping.”

Another thing to watch for is unattended kids. Keep a watchful eye on them so they don’t touch any buffet food with their hands.

Ultimately when people go back for seconds, request that they grab a new plate. This prevents serving spoons touching soiled plates and from any saliva on their plate getting into the trays for food.  

Keep Food at Safe Temperatures 

Another important safety tip to use every day at your buffet involves keeping all of the food at safe food temperatures. If it is too high or too low, it could make guests sick.

Avoid ill guests by keeping cold foods at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder. Cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from growing and multiplying. So, be sure that the cold food is served in chilled containers, trays, or bowls that are filled with ice. Be prepared to replace some trays due to the ice melting.

Hot foods should be kept at 140 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter. Someone might think because they have a chafing dish warming the food, they're in the clear, but if it's actually being held at a temperature of 120 degrees, they're creating more risk because it's nice and warm but not warm enough. They should be served in hot chafing dishes, slow cookers, or hot trays. These tips will ensure that the food doesn’t dip below 140 degrees which is perfect for breeding bacteria, allowing food-borne illnesses to come alive and thrive.  

Follow The 2-Hour Rule 

The absolute maximum time for leaving prepared foods at room temperature is 2 hours—including time for preparation, serving and eating. Discard any perishable foods left at room temperature longer than 2 hours. If you are eating outdoors at a picnic or barbecue on a hot day, discard foods after 1 hour.

For food in hot and cold trays, you should check the temperature of the food every two hours. If any food goes out of its recommended temperature, adjust as soon as possible to bring it back. If you can’t do this, then store it properly to avoid the dish going bad.

While it is admirable to not waste good food, be careful to avoid food-borne illness in the process. When in doubt, throw it out. The containers should be cleaned thoroughly before new food is put and served in them.  

Have Hand Washing Stations
Finally, as a host, is critical that you urge your guests to wash their hands frequently, especially before and after eating.

If in doubt, guests should always opt for washing their hands to prevent the spread of germs. Hand washing stations can be set up in the kitchen and bathrooms to prevent contamination of food.

If you have a lot of family and not enough sinks, use hand sanitizer. Kem-Shield’s 16.9 oz bottle or 1 liter bottle is perfect for a decent sized gathering.

These tips can go a long way in keeping your holiday events safe and sanitary. You can have the peace of mind in knowing that the food you serve is safe to eat and that your friends and family are well-protected from contaminants that can make them sick.