Memorial Day and Labor Day often include a cookout. Popular outdoor dining items, including prepared salads, chicken, hamburgers or hotdogs, are at risk of contamination with foodborne bacteria. Don’t let foodborne illness ruin your holiday! Practice these four basic food safety tips to keep bacteria at bay.
Begin your cookout with a clean slate. Wash preparation surface areas with hot soapy water, especially after contact with raw foods. Wash your hands with soap under warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Have family or friends who are helping prepare food wash their hands as well.
Raw meat, and juice from raw meat, can contain harmful bacteria. To prevent cross-contamination, keep all raw meats and poultry separate from vegetables and cooked foods. Use different cutting boards and knives to prepare meats and vegetables.
When you don your apron and fire up the grill, do not forget your most important weapon in your food safety toolbox—the food thermometer. Proper cooking temperatures kill foodborne bacteria. Despite what many people believe, color is not a reliable indicator of doneness. Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often brown quickly and may appear done on the outside, but still may not have reached a safe minimum internal temperature to kill any harmful bacteria. The food thermometer provides an accurate reading of internal temperature. Place the thermometer in the thickest part of the meat to take a temperature reading.
Safe Minimum Internal Temperatures include:
Hot dogs—165 °F or until steaming hot
Ground beef and other ground meat—160 °F
Whole cuts of pork, lamb, veal and beef—145 °F (followed by a three-minute rest time)
The last challenge of any outdoor event is keeping hot food hot and cold food cold. Too often, food is prepared and left to sit out while guests munch over the course of several hours. Bacteria grow most rapidly between 40 °F and 140 °F. To keep bacterial growth at bay, keep hot food on the grill and place cold food in a cooler or ice bath. Never let perishable food sit out for more than two hours. If the temperature is higher than 90 °F, food should not sit out more than one hour. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers promptly and discard any food that has been sitting out too long.
Click here for more information on safe grilling.
Source: United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service