Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
People who are great cooks for themselves and their family may not know how to safely prepare and store quantities of food for large groups. Large-quantity food preparation is often required for graduation parties, family reunions, community meals or even the funeral lunch at a faith-based organization. Food that is mishandled can cause foodborne illness and lead to serious consequences. Especially at risk are: infants, young children, older adults, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems. For this reason it is important that cooks and volunteers be especially careful when preparing and serving food to large groups. Here are some tips to help you prepare and serve large quantities of food safely: Plan ahead. Be sure you will have adequate oven, stovetop, refrigerator, freezer and work space for the amount of food you will be preparing. Store and prepare food safely. Refrigerate or freeze perishable food within two hours of shopping or preparing. Use an appliance thermometer to be sure the refrigerator is at 40 degrees or below and the freezer is zero degrees or below. Clean everything. Wash hands, cutting boards, dishes, utensils and work surfaces frequently with hot, soapy water. Separate raw and ready to eat foods in storage and during preparation. Do not cross contaminate. Cook food to safe internal temperatures. The only way to tell if harmful bacteria are destroyed is by using a food thermometer. When shopping, transporting, preparing or serving keep hot food hot, meaning 140 degrees or above; and keep cold food cold, meaning 40 degrees or below. Chill food quickly. Refrigerate promptly. Divide foods such as soups and stews by placing in shallow containers no more than 2-3 inches in depth. For quicker cooling, place in an ice water bath and stir. Meats and poultry should be sliced or divided into smaller portions. Do not overfill the refrigerator; cool air must circulate to keep food safe. Never leave perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, eggs and casseroles in the "Danger Zone," which is 40 degrees to 140 degrees, for more than two hours, or for more than one hour in temperatures above 90 degrees. When in doubt, throw it out!