Essential Summer Food Safety Tips for Your Next Cookout

Summer is all about enjoying the great outdoors. This means plenty of barbecues and al fresco dining with family and friends. But while a backyard cookout is certainly fun, getting sick afterward definitely isn’t. When you’re planning your next cookout, be sure to follow a few basic food safety tips to reduce your risk of food poisoning.

  1. Keep your hands clean. Stay vigilant about hand hygiene when preparing and cooking food outdoors, especially when working with raw meats. Skip the antibacterial gels and wipes in favor of thorough hand washing using soap and warm water. Always wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  2. Don’t leave perishable foods sitting out. Follow the two-hour rule. This rule says that perishable foods shouldn’t be left at room temperature for any longer than two hours; once it’s been sitting out that long, throw it out. Food left in temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit should be refrigerated within one hour.
  3. Rinse fresh fruits and veggies before serving. Whether you pick crops from your local grocery store or from your personal garden, take the time to rinse them well. Produce containing a lot of nooks and crannies, such as lettuce or broccoli, should be soaked for 1 to 2 minutes in cold water.
  4. Use separate utensils and cutting boards. You should never cut ready-to-eat items like breads or veggies on the same cutting board you used to cut raw meats. The same applies for utensils: Always wash your knives with soap and water after using them to cut raw meats.
  5. Store food safely while traveling. If you are packing a cooler to have a cookout at the park, use an insulated cooler filled with frozen gel packs or ice. Make sure that your raw meats do not come into direct contact with other foods. Try not to open the cooler much, and remember that a cooler that is mostly full will stay colder longer than one that’s partially full.
  6. Check meats with a food thermometer. You can’t always tell if meat is done by color and texture alone. Whole cuts of pork, beef, veal, and lamb should reach 145 degrees in the center of the thickest part, ground meats should reach 160 degrees, poultry should reach 165 degrees, and fish should reach 145 degrees.
  7. Do not reuse items that touched raw meats. Use a clean plate and tongs when you’re picking up and serving food. Do not use the same plate and tongs that touched the raw meat or poultry.
  8. Marinate your meat in the refrigerator. Do not allow your meat, fish, or poultry to marinate at room temperature, as bacteria can begin to multiply if food is left out for more than two hours. After using a marinade on meat, always throw the marinade out; don’t attempt to use it again.
  9. Serve cold foods cold. Keep cold foods in an insulated cooler with ice, in a shallow pan filled with ice, or in your refrigerator until you’re ready to eat.
  10. Do most of your prep work at home. If you are heading to a cookout, try to do most of the preparation at home, such as washing and slicing veggies and making salads. This will save you time at the barbecue and prevent foods from having to sit out longer than necessary.
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