By Cristina Pessegueiro, Skinny Gene Nutritionist
Summer is here and so is the season of picnics, pool parties, and barbeques! While enjoying the outdoors with friends and family allows for spending quality time together, it also means cooking lots of tasty dishes to be shared. Unfortunately these events can be bacteria’s dream come true. 1 in 6 Americans suffer from food poisoning each year. In the summer months, those numbers escalate.
Have a food safe summer by remembering these four basic food safety rules. You’ll keep your friends and family safe, from the food prep down to bringing home delicious leftovers.
4 FOOD SAFETY RULES YOU SHOULD KNOW
Rule #1: Clean
- Food safety starts with the at home preparation and that means freshly washed hands and a clean kitchen. Wash all surfaces, utensils, and cutting boards with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds. This includes before each use of your grill too!
- Wash all fruits and veggies under running water before you peel, cut, or cook them.
- Have clean utensils for everyone to eat with and to serve the food at your summer of fun destination.
- Keep hand sanitizer and towelettes handy for everyone at your outdoor festivity and paper towels (not a rag to hoard bacteria) for the grill master.
Rule #2: Separate
- Prevent any cross-contamination by keeping ready-to-eat foods or already prepared dishes separate from any that still need to be cooked while traveling. Separate by keeping each individually wrapped and packed in different larger bags or containers to prevent any spills.
- Designate plates and utensils that will be used for raw food and keep those from touching any cooked foods.
Rule #3: Cook
- Completely thaw meat before cooking to ensure even cooking. Use the fridge for a slower method or the microwave if it will be cooked immediately.
- If using a marinade prior to grilling, do so in the fridge for up to two days for flavorful and tender meats.
- Cooking outside can be a treat for all, as long as you have the right tool. Keeping a food thermometer on deck is the only real way of knowing your food has been properly cooked the whole way through. Not even the good ole visual method will do. Cook beef and sausage to 160 degrees and chicken and turkey to 165 degrees. Hold those temps for 3 minutes and measure in the thickest part of the meat.
Rule #4: Chill
If you cooked at home and packed your dishes, be sure to chill foods right after cooking- this prevents foods from mingling around the danger zones.
- Transport food directly from the fridge to the cooler just before heading out for summer fun. Once there, keep any meats chilled until it’s grilling time.
- You’ll want to keep your dishes in a shady area and set your timer. Food shouldn’t sit out for more than two hours when outdoors and anything that needs to be kept refrigerated should be kept cold in an insulated cooler with ice packets. In this warmer weather, higher than 90 degrees, food shouldn’t sit out for longer than one hour. Keep an extra close eye on anything made with mayo or dairy.
- While you want to keep your cold foods cold, you want to keep your hot foods hot – preferably near the grill.
- Pack up leftovers in shallow containers and refrigerate as soon as possible.
For more information check out foodsafety.gov and homefoodsafety.gov. Happy barbequing and picnicking!