With warm weather here to stay and a holiday weekend around the corner, it’s time to fire up the grill and enjoy a meal outside with friends and family (a must-read: July 4th Heart Healthy Meals). But before you lay out your picnic blanket, keep in mind that bacteria also love warm weather.
Don’t let food poisoning spoil your fun – read on for some grilling and summer food safety tips.
Remember the Basics
No matter where you are preparing food; be sure to wash your hands before and after touching raw meat.
If you’re heading to a park or beach without access to clean running water, be sure to pack some antibacterial gel or hand wipes.
Keep it Cool!
Don’t let perishable foods (including raw meats, deli meats, salads and dairy products) sit out for more than two hours – and if the temperature is above 90 degrees, reduce that to one hour.
When a refrigerator isn’t available, always store perishables in a cooler along with some ice packs and place the cooler in the shade. Remember that every time you open the cooler, cold air escapes. If you are going to be outside for a while before eating, you may want to pack drinks in one cooler and food in another – and keep the food cooler closed until you are ready to serve the food.
Separate Raw from Cooked
Bacteria and pathogens found in raw meat are a common cause of food poisoning.
Whenever possible, pack raw burgers, hot dogs, chicken, fish or steak in a separate cooler from other prepared foods. If there’s just one cooler for food, wrap the meat well in plastic and place it at the bottom of the cooler so it stays cold and doesn’t leak on anything else. Always bring at least two plates and utensils to use when grilling – one set for the raw items, the other for the cooked.
Don’t Let Your Eyes Fool You
The best way to know if your meat is done is to use a meat thermometer.
Be sure to bring one along so you don’t have to guess about whether that burger ‘looks’ done. Always cook meats to the temperatures below to ensure safety:
- Poultry: 165 degrees
- Ground meat (not poultry): 150 degrees
- Solid cuts of meat or fish: 145 degrees
Keep cooked food hot (140 degrees or more) until it is served, and pack up leftovers as soon as possible so nothing goes to waste.
Now it’s time to pack up those coolers, load up on water and sunscreen and enjoy the summer sun this holiday weekend!