How Long Can Appetizers Sit Out

Ask the Test Kitchen

How long can appetizers that require refrigeration sit out? – J.S., Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.

Test Kitchen: Party foods left out for too long offer the perfect environment for bacteria growth, so it’s important to keep an eye on them. The USDA says foods shouldn’t sit at room temperature more than 2 hours. Discard foods that have been left out longer.

Keep these tips in mind the next time you host a party:

* Place small portions on the buffet table and replenish dishes often.

* Store cold backup dishes in the fridge and hot back up dishes in a 200-250 degree oven.

* Replenish foods with clean bowls and platters each time you refill the buffet to avoid cross-contamination.

* Frequently check the buffet’s foods with a food thermometer. Hot foods should be held at 140 degrees or warmer. Serve hot appetizers in chafing dishes, slow cookers and warming trays. Cold foods should be held at 40 degrees or colder. Nestle dishes in bowls of ice to help keep them cold.

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