Ok, so let’s talk about potlucks. They can be a great freaking time but the very concept of a potluck can be a breeding ground for E.coli.
That said, you’ve decided you’ll host a party but everyone has to bring a dish of their choice—or maybe it’s your work’s annual employee potluck. Either way, you’re going to make your famous devilled eggs and you’re crossing your fingers that Janet from accounting is bringing those caramel bars she made the year before.
The thing is, potlucks typically take place during the warm summer months in someone’s backyard. With the hot summer sun beating down on your table of noodle salad and grilled chicken, what once was a smorgasbord of homemade delights has the potential of becoming a buffet table of bacteria and self-loathing.
To ensure your contribution isn’t illness and that no one leaves with more than leftovers, here are some tips for potluck safety:
While You’re Prepping
- Wash your hands—it seems silly we have to remind any adult of that but when you’re bringing food to serve other people, wash them twice.
- Avoid cross-contamination by using separate utensils and plates to cut veggies and raw meat.
- Wash produce really well. You don’t want to get blamed for food-poisoning when it was the veggies all along.
- Use a meat thermometer to check that the meat is cooked thoroughly. The color test doesn’t always indicate something is fully-cooked.
At the Party
- Transport food in proper storage bags: a cooler for cold foods and an insulated bag for hot foods.
- Keep food refrigerated until the time of the party.
- Replace empty plates and serving dishes instead of adding new food onto dishes that have sat out. Plus, think of all the hands and flies that have touched the platter. Don’t add new food to it.
- THROW AWAY any perishable foods that sit out for longer than 2 hours.
Extra Tips and Suggestions
- Don’t try to feed an army—if 30 people are invited, your one dish doesn’t have to feed all of them.
- Know the culprits—if you’re late to the party and are unsure how long that mayo, pea, and noodle salad has been sitting out, it’s probably best not to chance it; even if it looks really good.
- Bring something that will hold up through the party—potlucks usually have people going back for seconds (or thirds, we’re not judging!) so try to plan a dish that won’t spoil when left out for a bit. At the very least, bring a cooler to store it in if you’re bringing potato salad.
- Bring serving utensils—your host will likely have a few spoons and the like but not a dozen. Bring a serving utensil that suits your dish so there’s no cross-contamination and so that no one feels tempted to reach in and grab things with their hands.
- This last one is just a personal preference but something we’re pretty passionate about—there is nothing worse than seeing a jar of homemade pickles at the end of the table and mentally prepping for how you’re going to take as many as you’d like without looking like a glutton. Only to discover, after you’ve piled about 17 on your plate, that they’re actually bread and butter pickles.
That’s deceitful and, quite frankly, cruel. Don’t do it. Bring dill pickles and not those atrocities that disguise themselves as pickles. And, while we’re on the topic of terrible things that have no place in decent society, leave that Jell-O mold at home. If (because you’re Satan) you insist on bringing one, don’t try to slip anything weird into the Jell-O like carrots, that’s just plain uncool.