With barbecues, picnics, garden parties, tailgating and camping, there are lots of great opportunities to enjoy the summer sunshine and spend time with friends and family that involve eating outdoors. Warm temperatures, combined with making do with more basic food preparation equipment and surfaces than you have in your kitchen, mean that you have to take extra care when preparing and eating food outdoors to avoid the risk of contamination by dangerous bacteria.
Here are some tips to help you keep your food safe when you are enjoying the outdoor life!
Cooking Food Safely On the Grill Outside
If you are barbecuing meat outdoors, the most important things to remember are to avoid any cross contamination between raw and cooked pieces of food, and to make sure everything you serve is cooked thoroughly. The easiest way to make sure things are properly cooked is to use a meat thermometer. Chicken should reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit throughout, whereas pork products should reach 160 and steaks 145. Under cooking isn’t as much of a problem with beef as with other meats, fish or poultry, so it is OK to serve steaks at a lower temperature if your guests prefer their beef rare.
For fish and shellfish, you can simply do it by eye, cooking until the flesh becomes opaque and pearly. Oysters, clams and mussels should be cooked until the shells open.
Avoiding cross contamination means storing raw food separately prior to cooking, and keeping cooked food to the side of the grill just away from the coals where it can stay hot before it is served – not where it is going to touch any raw meat you have just thrown on.
Also remember that if you partially cook meat in an oven or microwave to cut grilling time, you need to put it on the grill right away. It is not safe for food to remain in a partially cooked state.
Managing Your Coolers
Make sure you have a good set of nice deep coolers from your local home supplies store, department store or restaurant supply store. These are the most important thing you can buy if you are planning to spend a lot of your summer outdoors.
Organize coolers so that there is no risk of raw meat touching other foods, and make sure that food is stored with enough ice to keep it constantly below 40 degrees – this is the safe temperature for food to be considered “refrigerated”. You can pack some foods frozen to keep them cooler for longer if you are going to be out all day.
Use a different cooler for cold drinks to the one you use for perishable foods. This is because you’ll want to limit how often the one with your foods in is opened to keep the contents as cold as possible, and your beverage cooler will be opened all the time as people need a lot of cold refreshing drinks when they’re out in the sun!
By following this advice and taking care to make sure your foods are safely contained and cooked, you can have a relaxing, safe and healthy barbecue season!
Richard Maxwell is a hospitality manager at a leading hotel. He likes to go outdoors with his friends and family and being a foodie likes to pack in his favorite sandwiches. In this article, he has stated some useful tips to keep food fresh when on a trip.