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Your Winning Game Plan for Super Bowl Party Food and Leftovers

Posted by Lynn Pereira, Food Safety Education Staff, USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service in Health and Safety
Jan 28, 2020
A box of chicken wings and sauces
A box of chicken wings and sauces.

If you’re planning to host friends and family on Super Bowl Sunday, remember that no party is complete without a game plan for leftovers. And a good game plan starts with the end in mind. Strategizing now can help you prevent foodborne illness and reduce food waste later.

Party Prep

Foods should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours, so even before your first guest walks through the door, know when you plan to serve the food, and set a timer to remind yourself when to start packing up leftovers.

Stock up on shallow food containers and make sure you’ve got extra space for them in your refrigerator or freezer. Even if your guests plan to take leftovers home, you’ll need to store the containers in the refrigerator until they’re ready to leave.

Wash hands immediately before and after handling food. A recent USDA Food Safety Consumer Research Project study shows that 99 percent of handwashing attempts were not done correctly. To properly wash your hands, wet your hands with water, lather with soap and scrub for 20 seconds. Rinse your hands and dry with a paper towel or clean towel.

Make sure you have a food thermometer. A food thermometer is critical for making sure that food reaches a safe internal temperature when you’re cooking, and that leftovers reach 165 °F when you reheat them.

If you plan on serving food throughout the game, make two portions of each dish. Serve one portion as the game starts and keep another portion in the refrigerator or oven to set out after halftime.


Halftime is a critical check-in point for players on the field – they get a chance to rest, catch their breath and hear a pep talk from their coach. Remember this is also a critical check-in point for you, too. It’s a perfect time to make sure your lineup of food and drinks is making the right plays (and not getting anyone sick).

Begin putting food away at the halftime mark, especially if food has been sitting at room temperature since the beginning of the game. Pack leftovers in small portions in shallow containers and place the containers into the refrigerator or freezer immediately. Discard any food that has been out for more than two hours.

Halftime is also time to bring out the substitute players – those fresh portions of food that you’ve been keeping hot or cold. Your guests will thank you for the fresh food… and for watching their blind side when it comes to food poisoning.

After the Game

Once again, pack any leftovers in small portions in shallow containers and place the containers into the refrigerator or freezer immediately. If you’re packing leftovers for friends and family to take home, leave the containers in the refrigerator until your guests are ready to leave. When you’re reheating leftovers, make sure they reach 165 °F, as measured by a food thermometer.

USDA has food safety coaches ready to help you put on a winning party this Super Bowl Sunday. Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at (1-888-674-6854) Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, or email or chat at Ask USDA.

Category/Topic: Health and Safety