It’s summer, and that means lots of time outdoor grilling, picnics, playing, relaxing and spending the afternoons in the warm sun. The longer days outdoors also pose higher risks for potential food safety situations. One resource that I always like to go to for recommendations on food safety is the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service website.
I want to share with you some essential barbecue and picnic food safety tips that will help you to be the best host and keep your guests and family safe as you enjoy eating outdoors!
Here are the SIMPLE guidelines:
1. Safe Shopping and Storing
- Buy meat and poultry last. Place them in separate bags to prevent juices from dripping on other foods.
- I’ve noticed more stores have sanitizers wipes by the carts, I always wipe the carts BEFORE and AFTER shopping, including wiping my hands again before I load the car.
- Refrigerate perishable items within 2 hours, and within 1 hour if the temperature is above 90°F.
- Freeze poultry and ground meat if it isn’t used in 1 or 2 days, freeze other meat within 4 to 5 days.
2. Safe Thawing
- Never thaw at room temperature on a counter! This will encourage bacteria to grow quickly.
- Thaw in the refrigerator, this will take longer however just plan ahead.
- Sealed packages can be thawed in cold water; just do not let meat reach room temperature.
- Defrost in the microwave if using immediately on the grill.
3. Safe Marinating
- Marinate food in the refrigerator; up to 2 days for Poultry and cubed meat and 5 days for beef, veal, pork, lamb, roasts, chops, and steaks.
- It is best not to reuse marinade that has been used for the raw meat, instead reserve some extra marinade. If you must, then make sure you BOIL the used marinade before using to kill harmful bacteria.
4. Safe Transporting
- Keep cold food cold at 40°F or below, with an insulated cooler filled with ice or ice packs.
- Keep raw meat cold until ready to grill and keep the cooler out of the sun!
5. Safe Cooking & Reheating
- An instant-read digital thermometer is your new best friend! This essential cooking tool will help you serve food at the proper temperature. Just make sure to clean the probe before inserting into another food item. Test the temperature BEFORE removing from the heat source.
- If you are fully cooking a food item before grilling, make sure to immediately reheat on the grill to complete cooking. Reheat to 165°F or until steaming hot.
- NEVER partially grill meat or poultry and finish cooking later.
- After cooking meat or poultry, keep hot until served at 140°F or warmer. This can be done by setting the cooked food on the indirect-heat side of the grill, or kept in an oven set at 200°F, in a chafing dish, slow cooker or warming tray.
- If smoking foods, the smoker temperature should be maintained at 250 to 300°F for safety.
6. Safe Serving
- NEVER use the same plate or serving utensils to serve cooked food that held the raw food. It may seem obvious, but I have seen this happen! Bacteria from the raw food can contaminate the cooked food.
- In hot weather above 90°F, do not let food sit out for more than 1 hour.
- Discard food left out more than 2 hours!
- Refrigerate leftover perishable foods within 2 hours in the shallow pan and refrigerated at 40°F (as long as it has not been left out longer as specified above).
7. Temperature “Danger Zone”
Source: USDA FSIS- “Danger Zone”
This concept has been drilled into my brain since my first classes in Food Science. Why? Because the most important job of anyone in the food industry or home cook is to keep the food safe for people to eat.
If you leave food out too long at room temperature harmful bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella Enteritidis, Escherichia coliO157:H7, and Campylobacter can grow to dangerous levels that can cause foodborne illness. Bacteria grow most rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40°F and 140°F (the temperature danger zone), doubling in number in as little as 20 minutes.
It may be a lot of things to remember, but it is an important consideration as you, your family and friends enjoy this fun eating time together!