Eating outdoors is one of the pleasures of summer, whether you enjoy a backyard barbecue, a picnic in a park or a campfire cookout. Unfortunately, summer’s warmer temperatures also mean food poisoning becomes a very real risk in fact, the USDA reports foodborne illnesses are much more common in the summertime. If you’re planning a summer cookout, you can reduce your risks for food poisoning simply by following a few simple guidelines:
- Pack foods in an insulated cooler and cool food before packing it to maintain cool temperatures for as long as possible. Don’t forget to include ice packs and keep the cooler out of direct sunlight whenever possible. Remember: Opening the cooler frequently can cause the internal temperature to rise, so consider packing beverages in their own separate cooler. Make sure meats are carefully packed in separate leakproof containers to prevent the meat juices from contaminating other items.
- Keep all meat and seafood in the cooler at all times until just before it’s ready to be cooked, and keep deli meats, mayonnaise-based salads and dressings, fruits and vegetables, and dips and dairy products in the cooler as well.
- When grilling, use a meat thermometer to ensure they’re cooked thoroughly. Ground meats should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F, and any chicken products should be cooked to 165°F internal temperature. Steaks and chops should have an internal temperature of 145°F after resting off the grill for three minutes.
- Have a separate cutting board and utensils reserved solely for raw meats during, and never use these items for any other types of food during your cookout. Items that are used to handle raw meats should never be used to serve meats once they’re cooked.
- Don’t “parcook” meat at home. Meat should be completely cooked at the location where you’re grilling. Partially cooking items at home to “speed up” the grilling time can provide bacteria time to grow while you’re traveling to your destination, so do all your cooking once you arrive.
- Never leave perishable food out for more than an hour. Serve food in small portions, refilling from the cooler as needed and throw out leftovers. Cooked meats should be kept at 140°F or higher until eaten. You can keep meats warm by placing them off to the side of the grill rack so they don’t overcook.
- Be sure to wash your hands often, especially after handling raw meats, and keep surfaces clean. If clean water isn’t available where you’re having your cookout, pack some wipes for hands and countertops.
Want more tips? Visit the USDA “Fight Bac” website for plenty of downloadable resources to help you keep your summer cookouts safe and fun.