Buffet Foods You Should Never Put on Your Plate

Krystal Smith

Food & Drink
Buffets can be either the culinary experience you have been waiting for all day or your worst nightmare, depending on what you have value in regarding food. Not all buffets are created equal, and knowing which foods are safe to fill up on and which ones are worth steering clear of will help you fill up on all the right foods. Here are 15 buffet foods that you should always use caution when considering eating.


Image Credit: Shutterstock
Sushi may seem like a good idea at an “all you can eat” spot, but don’t be so sure. It’s great to get it fresh, but it’s a different story at your local average buffet. Raw fish and other seafood (such as crab and shrimp) spoil quickly, so it’s not safe to leave these foods at room temperature for an extended period, typically when part of a buffet array. Also, consuming improperly stored or expired sushi increases the risk of foodborne illnesses like sushi contamination.

Uncooked Shellfish

Image Credit: Shutterstock
Love sushi? Well, guess what? Uncooked shellfish like clams, oysters, and mussels may contain bacteria that can ill you. You may be unable to tell that a shellfish is terrible because it can still smell and taste okay. Shellfish served buffet-style at holiday parties may stay hot or cold for a short time. Shucked shellfish may be fresh but are often served on mixed trays or self-service displays, both invitations for cross-contamination.

Buffet Meats

Image Credit: Shutterstock
Buffet meats like roast beef or pork may be undercooked to accommodate different diners’ preferences. This can put you at risk for foodborne illnesses such as salmonella or E. coli. Always ensure that meats are cooked through before you visit the buffet.

Egg-Based Dishes

Image Credit: Shutterstock
Food in the egg-based dishes group, such as quiches, frittatas, or egg salad, is risk-prone when heeds are not maintained in their handling or storage. Eggs are known to carry salmonella when not thoroughly cooked and even left out on the counter to sit for a while. Avoiding eggs at a buffet is best if you are unsure how it was cooked.

Fried Foods

Image Credit: Shutterstock
Fried foods are a great dish if you are into heavy greasers. However, consuming the wings, mozzarella sticks, and onion rings is difficult because absorbing too much grease can cause indigestion, bloating, cramps, and many bathroom trips. Instead, try to eat a small amount for everyone.

Unlabeled Foods

Image Credit: Shutterstock
Buffets may need to list the ingredients in the foods. When you put food on your plate and grab food without knowing what is in it, you can harm yourself if you have dietary issues because you don’t understand what nutrients each food contains. Be sure to ask what your foods might contain or choose marked foods.

Uncovered Food

Image Credit: Shutterstock
An uncovered food item is at risk of contamination, such as from the surroundings, minor flying bugs, and other airborne particles. Buffet equipment should have sufficient covers to protect food.

Mayo-Based Salads 

Image Credit: Shutterstock
Salads covered in mayo, such as coleslaw and potato salad, can spoil quickly if not taken care of. Your buffet-style salads, including mayo-based salads, should only sit out for a few hours. If not kept cold and fresh, they can put your feast at risk for bacterial growth and foodborne illness.


Image Credit: Shutterstock
In many buffet-style restaurants, you will find numerous condiment bottles and jars of ketchup, mustard, or mayonnaise. This means that almost every customer in the restaurant will be touching a shared bottle or container. These bottles and containers are the perfect place for many germs and bacteria to grow and are easily transferable to your body. One way to avoid becoming sick by these germs and bacteria is to use single-serve condiment packets. Many restaurants offer these packets if you request them, which is a safer way to get your condiments. Just be sure you are not sharing these packets with others since a person may be sick, and this packet may have saliva on it.

Fruit Salad

Image Credit: Shutterstock
Fruit salad may be a refreshing addition to your meal; however, ensure the fruit has been properly washed and fresh. Fruit salads at buffets have often been sitting out and may be unsafe to consume due to possible spoilage and contamination from growing bacteria. You should be cautious when consuming fruit salad from a buffet and ensure it appears fresh and maintained.

Unpasteurized Cheese 

Image Credit: Shutterstock
Buffet cheese platters may often include a variety of cheeses, including unpasteurized or raw milk cheeses. Unpasteurized cheeses can carry harmful bacteria like listeria, which can cause serious illness, particularly in pregnant women, older adults, and those individuals with weakened immune systems. Choose pasteurized cheese options to reduce your risk of getting a foodborne illness.

Cream-Based Baked Goods

Image Credit: Shutterstock
Avoid cream-based baked products. For example, a cream-based dish may include a cream soup, cream sauce, cream pie, or other item. Cream-based foods left out for long periods are especially susceptible to mold and bacterial growth. When something made with cream is allowed to sit out at room temperature, it can become a breeding ground for bacteria, which can cause foodborne illnesses. Use caution when choosing cream-based items and select refrigerated or chilled items whenever possible for food safety.

Uncovered Desserts

Image Credit: Shutterstock
Buffet desserts such as cakes, pastries, and pies can be landed with heads uncovered. When left exposed, these desserts are susceptible to contamination from the air or from handling the dessert. When choosing the best desserts for the buffet, choose only those adequately covered or protected.


Image Credit: Shutterstock
Buffets with beverages can be unregulated. These can be soda fountains or iced tea dispensers, where populations of bacteria can build up if not properly maintained. They are being held in a place where it can be helpful until the service is provided. Using cans and bottles will minimize contact with any personal beverage usage.

Orange Loaf Cake Recipe

Image Credit: Mama of Five
Looking for a delicious and easy-to-make dessert to impress your family and friends? Look no further than this mouth-watering orange loaf cake! With its perfect balance of tangy and sweet flavors, this cake is sure to become a favorite in your recipe collection. Get the Recipe: Orange Loaf Cake Recipe

Tres Leches Cake

Image Credit: Mama of Five
Gluten-free Tres Leches Cake is made with a combination of gluten-free flours and is just as decadent and indulgent as the original version. Whether you’re gluten intolerant or just looking for a tasty dessert that everyone can enjoy gluten-free Tres Leches Cake is a must-try.
Get the Recipe: Tres Leches Cake

Vegan Lemon Matcha Marble Loaf Recipe

Image Credit: Mama of Five
This unique dessert combines the bright, zesty flavor of lemon with the earthy bitterness of matcha to create a tantalizing taste experience. Made with simple ingredients like all-purpose flour, almond milk, and vegetable oil, this cake is easy to make and perfect for any occasion.
Get the Recipe: Vegan Lemon Matcha Marble Loaf Recipe

Leave a Comment