Summertime food may be dangerous! Bacteria like picnics as much as we do, and summer heat will quickly raise the temperature of refrigerated food into the 40s and above – where bacteria grow like, well, bacteria.
Outdoor food safety is a must if you don’t want to end your picnic with repeated trips to the bathroom or the emergency room.
Follow the simple tips below to ensure your outdoor food safety:
- Think beyond picnics – many outdoor events serve food at this time of year, and not all are professionally catered. There’s the ball game, the company picnic, an outdoor wedding, even your kid’s graduation party.
- Step one to safe outdoor food is safe indoor preparation: make sure the prep area and utensils are clean. The fewer bacteria there are to start with, the fewer there will be to multiply.
- Wash the food prep area with hot, soapy water; soak it in a solution of one teaspoon of chlorine bleach per quart of water; rinse the area; pat it dry. Now you can cook!
- If food will be served outside, marinate it in a covered dish in the refrigerator rather than on the counter.
- Follow safe cooking rules: poultry, 180° (breasts only, 170°); ground meat and whole or ground pork, 160°; steaks, roasts and chops, 145°.
- Once hot food is hot, keep it hot – at least 140°. Once cold food is cold, keep it cold – no warmer than 40°.
- Never let food sit at room temperature for more than two hours; if outside, and it’s more than 85°, reduce that limit to one hour.
- Use a cooler, and once you’re at your destination place it in the shade. This not only keeps the food safer, it may hold off the ant attack for a while.
- The worst way to test whether food is safe is to taste it (duh!). When in doubt, throw it out!