If you’re hosting a Super Bowl party this year and planning to score points with your famous chili recipe, don’t get a penalty for ignoring food safety.

By creating a game plan in advance, you can make sure the party foods you love stay safe and delicious, says Marianne Gravely, senior technical information specialist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Meat and Poultry Hotline.

“I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed this about football, but it takes forever to play a game,” Gravely says. “So you have a potential situation where food is just sitting out for hours and hours.”

When it comes to food safety, always remember the two-hour rule, Gravely says. Don’t keep foods at room temperature for more than two hours. Bacteria multiply rapidly at this temperature, increasing the risk of food-borne illness.

Gravely recommends dividing up your party menu throughout the game. For example, serve appetizers during the pre-game, a main dish during the half-time show, and dessert for the second half.

It’s also important to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold, Gravely says. Use crockpots, warming trays or chafing dishes to keep hot foods hot, and place cold foods like dips or lunch meats in a bowl of ice, she says.

“Or you can replenish the food frequently, so put small portions out and keep the rest in the oven and refrigerator and then replace it, because you really don’t want perishable food out more than two hours,” Gravely says.

If you’re planning to bring food to a party, be sure to communicate with the host ahead of time, Gravely says. Let the host know if they need to make room in the oven or if they need an extra outlet to plug in a crockpot.

And be responsible for whatever you contribute to the party, Gravely says. Make sure the food you bring isn’t sitting out for more than two hours.

In addition, don’t forget to frequently wash your hands, especially during flu season, Gravely says.

“As guests are carrying in food, you can kindly direct them to where the sink is if they want to wash their hands,” she says. “And then you can have wipes on the tables, or just around the house. You can decorate them in team colors. But give people the idea of washing hands.”

Gravely offers one more piece of advice for party hosts: Clean out your fridge ahead of time to make room for all the food you plan to serve.

“I don’t care where you live, your back porch or your garage are not reliably cold enough to keep cold food cold,” she says.

Gravely and her team at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Meat & Poultry Hotline (1-888-MPHotline) are available to answer your food safety questions. The hotline is open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Central Time. Or find more information about Super Bowl food safety online on the USDA’s website.

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