Serving prepared foods safely


Purchasing hot or cold foods from the deli is a convenient and healthy way to eat. Here are a few tips to keep prepared foods safe:

Hot foods

When you purchase hot cooked food, keep it hot. Eat and enjoy your food within 2 hours to prevent harmful bacteria from multiplying.

If you are not eating within 2 hours — and you want to keep your food hot — keep your food in the oven set at a high enough temperature to keep the food at or above 140 F. (Use a food thermometer to check the temperature.) Side dishes, like stuffing, must also stay hot in the oven. Covering food will help keep it moist.

Cooked food tastes better if it's not kept in the oven for too long. For best taste, refrigerate the food and then reheat when you are ready to eat. Here's how:

  • Divide meat or poultry into small portions to refrigerate or freeze.
  • Refrigerate or freeze gravy, potatoes, and other vegetables in shallow containers.
  • Remove stuffing from whole cooked poultry and refrig

Cold foods

Cold foods should be eaten within two hours or refrigerated or frozen for eating at another time.

Reheating leftovers

You may wish to reheat your meal, whether it was purchased hot and then refrigerated or purchased cold initially.

  • Heat the food thoroughly to 165 F.
  • Bring gravy to a rolling boil.
  • If heating in a microwave oven, cover food and rotate the dish so the food heats evenly and doesn't leave "cold spots" that could harbor bacteria. Consult your owner's manual for complete instructions.

More about: cooking temperatures, food storage