Simple Food Safety Tips for Cookouts
Ahh… summertime. A time of long days and lazy afternoons spent outside in the warm sun and dragged out meals that take us from the summer sun into the evening. It is also a season of delicious foods that are left out longer than they should be at unsafe temperatures that set the scene for uninvited guests (like bacteria). Luckily, with some simple tips from the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service and the right tools, you can keep food safety a top priority without giving up on dining al fresco or cooking up your favorite barbeque foods.
Start by thawing meats the right way: If you are using meat from the freezer, thaw it safely by placing it in the refrigerator or under cold water (if it is in a sealed package). If you are in a rush, you can also thaw in the microwave. Either way, be sure to thaw completely to ensure even (and safe) cooking.
Marinate safely: Before adding marinade to raw meat, reserve some if more is needed during cooking, as you don’t want to baste meat or cook with marinade that may be contaminated from raw meat. It is okay to marinate poultry and cubed or stew meat for up to 2 days; beef, veal, pork, lamb and steak may be marinated up to 5 days. Remember, no matter how long you are marinating for, always do it in the refrigerator.
Keep your (food) cool: Temperature matters from the moment the food leaves your fridge until it makes it to your grill. If you are transporting meat, make sure to use an effective cooler that can keep it below 40 degrees. Keep it in the shade and use a separate cooler for beverages so that it can remain closed and keep the meat appropriately cool.
Job well done: Okay, maybe you are not looking for well-done meats but medium instead. No matter what, aim for these minimum temps:
Whole poultry: 165 °F
Poultry breasts: 165 °F
Ground poultry: 165 °F
Ground meats: 160 °F
Beef, pork, lamb, and veal (steaks, roasts and chops): 145 °F and allow to rest at least 3 minutes.
Don’t rely on touch to tell you the temperature: invest in a good meat thermometer for grilling such as this one, available at Brookstone.
Safe sides: Unless you want a side of bacteria with your perfectly cooked burger, make sure all sides (especially those creamy ones) are kept below 40 degrees. Chill metal bowls in the freezer before using to keep them cooler longer or use bowls specially designed bowls like these sold by Fit and Fresh.
Good to the last bite: Once you have prepared a safe meal, be sure to keep extra hot servings above 140 degrees and cold servings below 40 degrees to prevent bacteria growth, then properly store leftovers in the refrigerator as soon as possible.
If you follow these simple rules, you can enjoy your cookout in the security of the knowledge that you and your guests won’t be worrying about dangerous bacteria joining the fun. Happy grilling!