Keep food safety in mind when cooking outdoors this summer. Each year, an estimated 128,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized due to foodborne illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Protect everyone at your next picnic with these food prep, storage and cooking tips.
Packing the food
Plan ahead to keep your food safe throughout the day. Remember to:
- Wash fruits and vegetables ahead of time. There may not be running water at the picnic site.
- Store raw meat separate from other foods to avoid cross-contamination.
- Place drinks and perishable foods in separate coolers. When guests grab drinks, they won't expose the perishable items.
- Use ice packs to keep perishable items at a safe temperature in the cooler.
- Pack a meat thermometer so you can be sure meats are cooked to safe temperatures.
Storing the food
As you enjoy your time outside, don't forget to:
- Fill large bowls with ice and set foods that need to stay cool on top. Don't forget to replace the ice as it melts.
- Keep perishable items in the cooler until time to eat. Make sure these items stay cool. The Food and Drug Administration recommends 40 degrees F or colder.
- Discard any food that's been sitting out for more than two hours.
- Keep coolers out of direct sunlight, and avoid opening them excessively.
Cooking the food
The same rules you follow at home apply to cooking outdoors. You'll need to:
- Cook meat to the proper temperature to destroy potentially harmful bacteria. Hamburgers are safe to eat at 160 degrees F, according to the USDA.
- Separate different types of raw meat from each other.
- Don't place cooked meat on a plate that once held raw meat. This goes for utensils too. Switch out your tongs to serve cooked meat.
- Place cooked meats in a pan by the side of the grill. The heat will help maintain a safe internal temperature.