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How Long Can I Leave Food Out for Guests?
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How Long Can I Leave Food Out for Guests?

Tracy Sherva, Kraft Kitchens expert, offers simple tips for keeping food events safe.

That’s a smart question to ask, especially in summer when we’re dining outdoors more and it’s harder to keep foods at “safe” temperatures. Happily, the answer to your question is a fairly simple one:

Watch the thermometer and the clock. Perishable foods shouldn’t be left out for more than an hour in temperatures over 90°F. In lower outdoor temperatures or air-conditioned areas indoors, foods can stay out for two hours—if cold perishables are kept in serving dishes over ice. Also keep food and drinks out of direct sunlight, no matter what the temperature may be. When foods have reached their time limit, refrigerate them or toss them out.

Keep hot foods hot…and cold foods cold. Hot sides and grilled meats should be kept at a temperature of 140°F or warmer until they’re served. Use a chafing dish, a slow cooker, a warming tray, an indoor oven, or the side of the grill to achieve this. For cold foods, use ice packs and/or ice in an insulated cooler (placed in the shade) to keep them at 40°F or below. Try not to open the lid too often, and store beverages in a separate cooler from perishables like cheese and pasta salad. If you’re serving items containing meat, dairy, or eggs, keep them in an indoor refrigerator until it’s time to eat them.

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