Food safety tips for a winning Super Bowl party

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chicken wings

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Super Bowl Sunday is like a holiday, with family and friends gathering to watch the big game and, of course, sharing many tasty foods. Other than Thanksgiving, more food is consumed on this day than any other day of the year. About 48 million Americans order takeout food for the game while consuming about 1.3 billion chicken wings.

But without good food safety practices in play before, during and after the game, some Super Bowl revelers might end up feeling much worse than fans of the losing team, according to Sharon McDonald, senior extension educator and food safety specialist in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

McDonald offers advice and recommendations for party hosts and attendees to avoid being penalized with foodborne illness.

Food preparation

“When preparing food, be sure to start with clean hands, work surfaces and utensils,” she said. “Always wash fresh fruits and vegetables under running water before preparing foods. This even includes food you are peeling, like those avocados for your guacamole.”

McDonald notes that one thing you do not want to wash is chicken wings. “Rinsing meat or poultry under running water results in splashing of water droplets onto other surfaces, kitchen utensils or food, causing contamination with harmful microorganisms,” she warned.

Cooking temperatures

If you are cooking food, she said, be sure to check the final cooked temperature with a food thermometer. Color is never a reliable indicator of safety or doneness. Meat dishes should be cooked to the following temperatures:

  • Burgers and sliders to 160 F
  • Chili and other reheated foods to 165 F
  • Chicken wings to a final temperature of 165 F

“For wings especially, take the temperature of several wings in a batch by placing a clean food thermometer in the thickest part of the wing, avoiding the bone,” McDonald said. “If one wing is under 165 F, continue cooking until reaching the correct temperature in all the wings checked.”

Leaving food sit out

Since Super Bowl parties tend to be all-day affairs, she stressed the importance of monitoring temperatures so that food is not sitting in the temperature danger zone (40 F to 140 F) for longer than two hours.

“Putting food out in small batches is a good idea,” McDonald said. “Use chafing dishes for wings and burgers; crockpots for chili, buffalo chicken, spinach or artichoke dips; and use a cold source like a bowl of ice below lunch meats, cheeses, fruit salad and other salads.

“At halftime do a temperature check on foods to be sure hot foods are at a temperature of 140 F or higher and cold food is at 40 F or lower. If they are not at proper temperatures and it has been less than two hours, then reheat or rechill, and if it’s been more than two hours then discard. Also, have a serving utensil for each item and plenty of paper plates so everyone can use a clean plate when getting more food.”

Leftovers

After the game, the party may continue if your team was the winner, or it may come to an abrupt end if the score went the other way. In either case, McDonald said, continue to keep food safety in mind as you take care of the leftovers:

  • Divide foods into smaller portions, place in shallow containers and refrigerate within two hours after the party.
  • If you do not think you will use the leftovers in three to four days, label and place them in the freezer to use at a later date.
  • Any perishable foods sitting on the counter at room temperature for longer than two hours should be discarded.

Reheating

Finally, be sure to reheat any leftovers to 165 F and check the temperature with a food thermometer. “For sauces, soups, chili or gravy bring to a rolling boil,” McDonald said. “Do not reheat in a slow cooker — it is not designed for that. Rather, reheat foods on the stove or in the microwave or oven.”

For more information, visit Penn State Extension’s “Home Food Safety” website.

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