Safe Takeout

From restaurants, delis, and supermarkets, take-out foods are becoming essential to today's busy lifestyles. Because many buy-and-go foods are perishable, you need to handle them with care to avoid foodborne illness. Keep hot foods above 140° F and cold foods at 40° F or below. Discard perishable foods kept at room temperature for more than two hours. If the temperature inside or outdoors tops 90° F, toss after one hour.

For hot foods...

  • Make sure the food is hot when you get it. Then eat it within two hours, or one hour if the temperature is 90°F or more.
  • If the food won't be eaten for more than two hours, refrigerate it in shallow, covered containers. Then reheat it to a temperature of 165° F, or until it's hot and steaming. Check the temperature with a meat thermometer. See "Using a Meat Thermometer " in chapter 12. Or reheat it, covered and rotated for even heating, in a microwave oven. Then let the food stand for two minutes for more thorough heating.
  • Keep hot take-out food in the oven or in a slow cooker at 140° F or above—but not if you'll hold it much longer than two hours. Food loses its appeal if it's held longer. Cover it with foil to keep it moist. And check the temperature with a meat thermometer.

For cold foods...

  • If you don't eat cold take-out foods right away, refrigerate them, or store them in chilled, insulated coolers.
  • For deli platters that stay on the buffet, keep the platters on bowls of ice.

For more information on foodborne illness—and how to prevent it—see chapter 12, "The Safe Kitchen."

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