Barbecues and picnics may be summer staples, but hot weather makes it easy for bacteria in and around food to multiply. Keep your celebrations healthy—and thwart the risk of food poisoning—with these food safety tips.
Start with four simple steps: Clean, separate, cook and chill
Clean: Keep everything as hygienic as possible. When outdoors, water-free alcohol gels and disposable antibacterial wipes are a reliable alternative to hand washing to help maintain clean cooking and cutting surfaces.
Separate: Raw foods contain bacteria that are killed through the cooking process, making it important to prevent raw and cooked foods from touching each other. Be sure to thoroughly wrap raw meats and store them in the bottom of a cooler so that if they do leak, the juices won't drip onto other foods.
Cook: It's a good idea to bring a meat thermometer along to gatherings to ensure meat is thoroughly cooked to the appropriate temperature to kill bacteria. Ground beef and pork should be cooked to 160 degrees, and poultry should be cooked to 180 degrees. Fish should be cooked until it flakes with a fork.
Chill: Always ensure perishable food stays chilled. Pack plenty of ice in a cooler and keep the cooler in an air-conditioned area of a car, rather than a hot trunk. Food requiring refrigeration should not sit out for longer than one hour in hot summer weather. If it does, it's best to toss it.
As for grilling
When you fire up the grill, keep the above steps in mind, in addition to making sure you:
- Marinate meat in the refrigerator rather than on a countertop or outside. Never serve marinade that's come into contact with raw meat as a sauce on cooked food.
- Keep grilled food hot and on the grill until you're ready to serve it. One way to do this without overcooking anything is by moving the meat to the side of the grill away from direct heat.
- Always use a clean plate and utensils to handle grilled food, rather than reusing dishes that held raw meat.
Information adapted from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
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