Having people round for food? - Avoid uninvited guests!

Inviting friends and family around to your house for dinner is a great way to socialise and have fun.

If you are hosting people at home, you’ll probably be cooking foods for more people than usual, possibly cooking foods that you don’t cook very often and storing larger amounts of food than usual. For these reasons, it’s essential to plan ahead to make sure you do this safely.

Food poisoning is a miserable and potentially dangerous experience. Some of the most common mistakes that may lead to food poisoning are poor storage, cold food not kept cold or hot foods not being kept hot, inadequate cooking and not separating raw and ready-to-eat food.

Here are some tips to help you on your way to an enjoyable evening:

Storing food

Cooking for larger numbers of people mean larger quantities of food competing for limited amounts of fridge and freezer space. Inappropriate storage is one of the most commonly reported slip-ups that contributes to food poisoning outbreaks.

  • In the week before your party, try to use up the foods in your fridge and freezer to free up some storage space rather than buying more in
  • Always look at labels on packaged food and to see how it should be stored, if it says that the food needs to be refrigerated, make sure it is in the fridge
  • Don’t take chances - make sure you’ve got enough fridge and freezer space to keep food cool and safe
  • Always observe "Use-By" dates
  • Separate all raw and ready-to-eat foods
  • Keep all raw meat, poultry and fish in a leak proof container in the bottom of the fridge. This is to make sure that any drips from the raw food will not make contact with other foods, particularly ready-to-eat foods. It protects your salad tray from any drips too.

Temperature control

Some foods need to be kept chilled to keep them safe. These include food with a "Use-By" date, food that you have cooked and won’t serve immediately, or other ready-to-eat foods such as salads. It’s important to keep these high risk foods in the fridge.

  • Keep you fridge temperature between 0-5°C. Use a fridge thermometer to check the temperature regularly
  • Don’t overload your fridge. If the cooling air circulating within it cannot flow freely it will be less effective
  • Keep the fridge door closed as much as possible
  • Those foods that need to be kept in the fridge should be prepared last. Don’t leave food at room temperature as harmful bacteria can grow and multiply to dangerous levels.
  • Cooked leftovers should be refrigerated with two hours. Put leftover food in shallow containers and divide into smaller amounts to speed up the cooling process.

woman opening the fridge

Preparing food

Cooking for a larger number of people than usual will mean larger amounts of food being prepared (both raw and cooked), more pots, pans, plates and more utensils used, more washing up and greater problems keeping worktops clean. Here are some basic rules that will help you to keep food safe when your kitchen is under pressure:

Prepare raw and ready-to-eat food separately. Don’t use the same knife or chopping board for raw meat and ready-to-eat food unless they have been cleaned thoroughly by scrubbing with hot soapy water between uses.

  • Wash dishes, chopping boards, worktops and utensils thoroughly hot soapy water between uses.
  • Wash hands regularly with warm soapy water to keep them clean. Always wash them before touching food, after using the toilet, after touching pets or the dustbin. Wash hands frequently when preparing food, especially between handling raw and ready-to-eat foods.
  • Keep dishcloths clean and change them frequently ideally every two days. If you’ve used a dishcloth to wipe up after raw meat, raw poultry or raw vegetables, then you should replace it immediately with a clean one.
  • Change tea towels and hand towels often. You might find paper towels a more hygienic option for drying your hands.

hands washing a plate


Cooking food thoroughly is the key to killing most harmful bacteria that cause food poisoning. Large meat joints or whole poultry are more difficult to cook so you need take special care with them.

  • Make sure meat and poultry are fully thawed before cooking or the expected cooking times might not be long enough. You should thaw food in the fridge making sure raw meat, fish and poultry cannot contaminate other foods, particularly ready-to-eat foods.
  • Use cooking instructions on packaging as a guide but always check that the centre of the food is piping hot. This is especially important for raw poultry or rolled or chopped/minced lamb, beef or pork which must be cooked until they are piping hot the whole way through, there is no pink meat left and the juices run clear.
  • Don’t be tempted to cut the cooking time just because people are waiting to eat.
  • Make sure cooked food is not reheated more than once.
  • Always heat until piping hot all the way through and check regularly that hot food is kept hot until serving.
  • Take proper care with leftovers. Throw away any high risk food that has been left at room temperature for more than two hours. Store leftovers in clean, covered containers in the fridge and eat within three days.

Have a great party!


Posted: 30/05/2017 09:57:40 by Mairead McCann

About Me

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Mairead McCann
I am Technical Executive in Food Science with safefood. I’m a food microbiologist and my work involves research into food safety and addressing queries on a range of food hygiene and safety issues. I live in County Cork although I am originally from County Down (where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to sea :-). In my free time I love to keep fit, catch up with friends and family, plan holidays and nice weekends away and eating out with my husband.