The arrival of Memorial Day means the start of the summer cookout season. Of course, if you’ve hosted a party lately, you know it’s not quite that easy. There’s a lot of hard work involved – especially when it comes to preparing food and is essential to prevent foodborne illness before you light up that grill and pack up the cooler.
Hot and humid weather combined with outdoor activities, provide the perfect environment for harmful bacteria to multiply on food and make people sick.
So before you fire up the grill, have in mind some helpful tips to keep you – and your guests – happy and healthy during your cookout or barbecue.
- Prepare and Clean Your Area: Before preparing food, it’s important to wash your hands, utensils and prep surfaces with soap and water. This reduces the risk of contaminating your food with germs that could cause food poisoning during a cookout.
- Rinse Fruits and Vegetables: Avoid the temptation to just cut and serve your fresh fruits and vegetables. You never know what germs they could have picked up on their journey from the farm to your kitchen – so start by rinsing them under running water.
- Avoid Cross-Contamination: Eggs, raw meat, poultry and seafood can be breeding grounds for foodborne bacteria. When preparing these foods in a cookout, be sure to use separate knives, plates and cutting boards. You should also keep them separated from other foods in your refrigerator.
- Cooking at the Right Temperature: When cooking meat, you can’t tell if it’s done by looking at color and texture alone. Instead, in a cookout use a food thermometer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), here are the safe minimum internal temperatures your foods need to reach to destroy harmful bacteria:
145°F for whole cuts of beef, pork, veal, and lamb.
160°F for ground meats, such as beef and pork.
165°F for all poultry, including ground chicken and turkey.
145°F for fish.
- Use Clean Utensils When Serving: When you’re finished cooking, don’t use the same utensils that handled your raw meat or eggs. Instead, grab clean serving utensils and a clean plate or platter.
- Keep Hot Foods Hot: Hot foods should be kept at or above 145°F. To accomplish this, keep your grilled items on the grill (but away from direct heat) to keep them warm or store them in an insulated container.
- Keep Cold Foods Cold: Nobody wants to eat that potato salad you left sitting in the sun all afternoon. Cold foods should be kept below 40°F. Store cold items in a cooler or serve them in a shallow pan filled with ice.
- Put Food Away Quickly: At the end of your cookout party, chances are you’ll have some leftover food. Remember to stash it in the refrigerator ASAP. Food should never be left out more than two hours, or one hour in temperatures above 90°F. If your food has been sitting out longer, throw it away to be safe.