Buffalo Wings

If you’re having a party, how you serve your Super Bowl spread is as important as what you serve. Otherwise, your buffet could become a food poisoning minefield. Follow these tips to keep your Super Bowl spread safe.

Prep Carefully

The juices from raw meat may contain harmful bacteria that will cross-contaminate ready-to-eat food that would otherwise be fine. Use one cutting board for raw meat and poultry and another one for cutting veggies or foods that will not be cooked. If you use only one cutting board, wash it with hot, soapy water between prepping each course. 

Start Small

It might be tempting to load up the buffet with everything you’re planning to serve at the start of the game so that you don’t have to miss a minute when the 49ers and Chiefs face off. 

More on Healthy Eating

But that would be a mistake. "The game can last 4 hours, and that’s far too long for a Super Bowl spread to sit out," says James E. Rogers, Ph.D., director of food safety and testing at Consumer Reports. Put out only enough perishable foods that you think will be consumed within an hour or two, and replenish as needed. You could split up dishes, like lasagna, into two smaller portions and put one out at the start of the game and the other at halftime, the Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service advises. Or serve appetizers and snacks during the first half, and bring out the main courses at halftime. 

Control the Temperature

From cold cuts to chili, different foods need to be kept at different temperatures. Serve cold dishes in a small bowl nestled in a larger one filled with ice, and use a hotplate or chafing dishes for warm selections. "Any food that's been sitting out unheated or unrefrigerated for 2 hours or more should be tossed out," Rogers says. 

Put Out Plenty of Plates and Utensils

Dirty hands are one of the biggest culprits for spreading bacteria. Finger foods at parties are especially vulnerable, so place tongs near each platter. And reduce the chances of double-dipping (yes, it does spread bacteria) by having a serving spoon and small plates near the chips and dip to encourage people to put the dip on a plate. 

After the Party, Chill

Refrigerate or freeze leftover main courses, like lasagna or chili, promptly to prevent bacteria from multiplying. Divide large amounts of leftovers into smaller, shallow containers for quicker cooling. For finger-foods, such as chips and dip or cheese and crackers, you're probably better off throwing away any still on the table at the end of the party, Rogers says. "Even if you put out serving utensils, you can't be sure someone didn't use their hands."

Food Safety 101

Bacteria is a serious threat when it comes to food preparation. On the "Consumer 101" TV show, host Jack Rico finds out how to cook a great meal without making your family and friends sick.