Return to Environmental Health

Guidelines for Preparing & Serving Home-Prepared Food for Group Gatherings

When preparing food at home, you can take actions to help keep yourself, your family, and your guests safe from foodborne illness ("food poisoning").

 Keep it Hot

  • When possible, prepare and cook the food the day of the event. 
  • Cook foods such as raw meat, eggs, and shellfish to a safe internal temperature; use a metal probe thermometer to check the final cooking temperature.
  • Keep hot cooked food at or above 135 degrees F.
  • Don’t serve any cooked or cold food that has been kept in the danger zone (41-135 degrees F) for ≥4 hours.
  • Visit this link for more information. 

Keep it Cold

  • Keep cold food at or below 41 degrees F.
  • If food is to be cooked a day or more in advance of an event, then cool from: 135 to 70 degrees within 2 hours; and from 70 to 41 degrees within 4 hours (use a metal probe thermometer to verify cooling temps).
  • Some proper cooling methods include placing food in shallow pans without lids, using ice-water baths with frequent stirring of food, and cutting up food such as meat to cool in smaller portions.

Keep it Clean

  • Wash hands with soap often (prior, during, and after food prep).
  • Use utensils with handles, paper napkins, wax paper or disposable gloves when handling ready-to-eat foods.
  • Make sure all food-contact surfaces and equipment are clean (wash, rinse, and sanitize with bleach & water, using ½ teaspoon bleach per gallon of water)

Keep it Healthy

  • Make sure household members are symptom free of stomach illness (no vomiting or diarrhea for a minimum of 48 hours prior to preparing food for the event).

More Information

Click here to view or download a PDF version of the above tips.

Visit www.homefoodsafety.org for more home food safety tips.

Back to Top