Some of the best meals are the ones we enjoy outdoors. There’s just something special about sharing a table (or picnic blanket) with friends and family, in the fresh air, while the aroma of freshly grilled meat wafts your way. But without the proper precautions, an otherwise enjoyable meal could easily result in a food-borne illness.
Fortunately, you can prevent that with just a few simple, quick, and easy rules.
Outdoor Food Safety Starts Inside
Some of the most important parts of outdoor food safety begin while you’re still inside. Following these tips will ensure that your food is delicious and safe from the start!
- Keep Your Hands Clean: Always wash your hands with hot, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before preparing any food and again when you finish. This seems like common sense, but it’s something that is often and easily forgotten. While hot, soapy water is always best, hand sanitizer is good for a quick fix when a sink may not be available– so make sure to keep some with you when dining outside.
- Separate Raw From Cooked: Keep raw items separate from ready-to-eat dishes. Cover and wrap raw meats tightly to avoid raw juices from coming in contact with already prepared foods.
- Refrigerate ASAP: Make sure that anything that you’re going to refrigerate gets inside the fridge as soon as it’s prepared, and always keep meats that are defrosting and marinating in the refrigerator until they are ready to be cooked.
- Separate Dishes For Separate Plates: Never use the same dish or container for cooked meats as you have for raw, unless you can thoroughly clean it in between. It’s best to bring a clean, untouched dish for those meats that are hot off the grill
- Watch Cross Contamination: Be sure to wash utensils, counter tops, cutting boards, and dishes before, between, and after each item gets prepared. Cross-contamination is one of the main culprits in food-borne illnesses during preparation, and while grilling and serving. Careful attention is a must!
- Clean The Grill: Remember to clean your grill before and after each use!
Keeping Temperatures Separate
One of the main concerns in outdoor eating is maintaining the proper temperature . If you don’t, bacteria can breed and make food unsafe to eat. Here are some key tips to remember:
- Covered In Transit: If you are transporting meats or other perishable foods to a picnic site, completely cover and surround them with ice. And again, separate raw meats from other food items.
- Tell-Tale Tool: A food thermometer is the only reliable way to tell if meat is thoroughly cooked. Don’t rely on color or texture.
- Peak Meat Temperature: Ground beef and pork should reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees, while chicken and other poultry should reach at least 165 degrees.
- Cook All At Once: Don’t attempt to partially cook meats ahead of time. Plan on cooking them from start to finish on the grill, at the campsite. Otherwise, you can cause bacteria to grow and multiply, and reheating doesn’t kill the bacteria.
- Strict Time Limit: Lastly, never allow any food, hot or cold, to sit outside of the refrigerator or cooler for more than 2 hours. If the temperatures are high that day, above 90, the rule is 1 hour. If you can’t get it refrigerated within those time frames, toss it. Better safe than sorry!
Some of the best tasting meats and other foods are cooked and/or eaten outside, and safely so! Taking the above simple measures will ensure a safe outdoor dining experience. Do you have any tips or tricks to ensuring outdoor food safety? What are some of your favorite meats to grill or dishes to bring to a picnic? Please feel free to share and comment below!