What do you think when you hear summer?
BBQs, parties, and weddings?
What about picnics, camping, and days at the beach?
None of these get-togethers are complete without food, and keeping food fresh and safe while you're outside can take some planning and preparation.
At this point you may be rolling your eyes saying, "Isabel, I've been keeping my food fresh for years!" If so, that's great! It's always good to have a refresher, though!
Here's the rundown on keeping food fresh for outdoor events...
Each year about 1 in 10 Americans suffer from an illness caused by food -- and your party is the last place you want someone to get a suspicious stomachache!
Because bacteria and germs are so stealthy, the only way to keep those invisible pests away is to follow tried-and-true food safety methods.
Here are the FDA-approved basics on food prep:
- Keep it clean! Make sure your utensils, dishes, and hands are washed with soap and hot water.
- Don't cross-contaminate! Keep raw meat well away from everything else, and don't reuse plates that have had raw meat on them.
- Food should not sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. This rule drops down to 1 hour if it's more than 90°F outside.
- Keep hot food hot (140°F and above) and cold food cold (40°F or below).
- Cook food thoroughly and avoid partially cooking meat to use up later. Cook steaks to 155°F, ground beef to 160°F, and chicken breasts to 170°F.
So what do you actually do to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold when you're outside?
How can you keep things fresh as possible from house to picnic, park, BBQ or campground?
Here are 9 specific tips for keeping things safe and tasty:
- Cook dishes ahead of time and thoroughly chill them in the fridge before packing.
- When packing raw meat, wrap it up twice and put it on the bottom to avoid cross-contamination.
- Carry along only what you need. Break big packages down into baggies or containers so that you're not bringing too many leftovers back home in a warm cooler.
- Bring along towels or wipes to clean hands and utensils with. If you don't know if you'll have access to safe drinking water, bring that along to help with washing, too.
- Split everything up on to smaller plates so that when one plate empties, you can pull a fresh one from the cooler, fridge or oven.
- Keep hot foods warm in the oven or on the grill. An oven set to around 225°F will usually keep foods above 140°F, but use a thermometer to be sure. If you have to reheat hot foods on site, make sure they get up to 165°F.
- Keep cold foods in the fridge or cooler. Use separate coolers for food and beverages so that the lid isn't being opened on your food all the time. Use as much ice as possible, and transport it in the air-conditioned part of your car instead of the hot trunk.
- Bring along a timer to make sure food doesn't sit out for more than 2 hours.
- Put your cold food serving dishes on ice in a large, shallow container like a plastic storage box or beverage tub. Put a hole in the bottom to avoid floating plates, and add fresh ice as needed.
Here are some great tips from Restaurant.org:
And of course, don't hesitate to throw food out if there is any question about its safety. If you think ahead and keep these 9 tips in mind, you'll avoid food safety problems and enjoy fresh parties all summer long!