How to Organize a Holiday Feast

November 23, 2009

What you can prepare ahead, how to keep hot dishes hot and cold dishes cold and other food safety tips. The holidays can be frantic; house guests fly in from out of town expecting an entire feast, presents must be wrapped and the house decorated with pumpkins and then immediately replaced with sparkling lights. Food safety can be easily forgotten in the rush of holiday cheer. To simplify your life remember these golden rules when preparing to entertain guests, so they remember your fabulous cooking and adorable holiday decorations and not the stomachache they had after eating: 1. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold: Keeping hot dishes hot can present a special challenge without proper equipment. Consider investing in a chafing dish, which works great for saucy items such as pot roast. Warming trays are another option, which are especially good for casseroles. If you don’t want to invest in special equipment, you can serve everything at room temperature, just be sure it doesn’t stay out for more than two hours. An easy way to accomplish this is to have replacement trays of heated food ready to put out. 2. Prepare foods ahead. Free oven space and avoid waking up at 4 a.m. the day of the gathering by preparing food ahead and freezing it. Casseroles and meat dishes freeze especially well, but you can freeze almost anything. Consider freezing food in individual portion sized containers for even reheating. For example, separate mashed potatoes into a muffin tin and freeze it. When you are ready to serve it, simply pop the tin in the oven. Just be sure to reheat all food to at least 140 F to kill potential bacteria. 3. Plan for last minute disasters. Your turkey is golden brown and cooked to perfection, the table is set and the wine is poured, but your guests call at the last minute to let you know they’ll be two hours late, what do you do? Pop hot foods back into the oven and cover them with foil to prevent them from drying out. Keep any dishes that can be served cold in the refrigerator. If your guests are delayed more than two hours or have to reschedule you can safely keep food in the refrigerator for up to four days, otherwise freeze all the food. 4. Wash your hands. Constantly. Encourage others to do so. Fifty percent of foodborne illness is spread from unwashed hands. Be especially careful when handling raw meat and produce. This post was written by guest blogger, Danielle Koagel, who is the At Home section editor for Eat, Drink and Be is an online food news magazine dedicated to educating consumers about all aspects of food production, safety, and quality. Our goals are to present accurate and updated information by using the most qualified resources and interview subjects, and to promote awareness of food ingredients, sources and production procedures so individuals have the resources to choose wholesome foods. For more articles on holiday food safety and healthy eating tips, visit

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