Eating outside can be a welcome respite from the heat indoors, but it can also be dangerous if cooks aren’t careful. Food can harbor bacteria that can make an individual sick, especially if these bacteria grow in the warm, outdoor air. Proper food handling is essential to prevent illness.
Summer is synonymous with many things, including sunny days, vacations at the beach and eating outdoors, be it a backyard barbecue with family and friends or a picnic at the nearby park. Cooks should consider the following tips to ensure food stays safe from bacteria when cooking outside.
* Keep things cold. Though summer is synonymous with heat, cold food should be kept cold until it’s time to cook. According to the United States Food and Drug Administration, cold food should be stored at 40 F or below to prevent bacterial growth. When bringing meat, poultry and seafood to a barbecue or picnic, pack it while still frozen so each item remains cold longer.
* Separate items by cooler. Separating items by individual coolers is especially important for larger gatherings. At parties, the beverage cooler tends to be opened and closed on a constant basis. If beverages and perishable items are in the same cooler, this can expose the perishable items to summer heat on a regular basis. However, separating items ensures the perishable items will only rarely be exposed to warmer temperatures, regardless of how many times people are reaching for a cool drink. It’s also ideal to keep the coolers closed as much as possible. This will keep drinks cold and perishable items from going bad.
* Securely wrap each item. It’s easy for food to get contaminated when it isn’t securely wrapped. Those chances only increase when different types of food are sharing the same container and are poorly wrapped. Barbecues often feature varied menus, including meat, poultry and even fish. Avoid cross-contamination by securely wrapping foods before packing them in the cooler. Secure wrapping will also keep juices from uncooked foods from contaminating prepared items such as salads or fruits and vegetables.
* Clean fruits and vegetables, too. Fruits and vegetables are very healthy, but those that have skin and rinds can also contaminate other foods. Before packing them in the cooler, rub fruits and vegetables under running tap water to wash off any germs or bacteria. Packaged fruits and vegetables don’t need to be washed.