Summer is in full-swing and it’s the perfect time for outdoor cookouts, dinner parties, and picnics. But without taking the proper precautions, the combination of leisurely summer get-togethers and the hot weather can create the perfect breeding ground for foodborne illnesses. Common sense food safety practices are a must in these hot summer months.
Remember that the key components to ensuring the safety of your food are time and temperature. Proper cooking, thawing, and serving times and temperatures will help you avoid pathogenic bacteria that can make you ill.
Time: According to the Department of Health, perishable foods like raw meat, poultry, and seafood, deli and luncheon meats or sandwiches, summer pasta, protein, or egg-based salads, and cut up fruit, vegetables, and dairy products should not sit out for more than two hours. In above 90 °F weather, never leave food out for more than 1 hour.
Temperature: Did you know that bacteria present in food can double every 20 minutes just at room temperature? Never thaw or marinate foods at room temperature. Instead try thawing and marinating in the refrigerator.
When serving cold foods outside, store them in a full insulated cooler. Serve small portions instead of leaving the entire platter of food on the table. Avoid opening the cooler more than necessary. To ensure hot foods like grilled meat stay safe to eat when not consumed immediately, keep them hot on the side of the grill rack (not directly over the coals) until ready to serve (safe at 140 °F or more). Don’t forget, when cooking you can never tell when safe temperatures of meat are met just by looking. Keep a thermometer on hand to ensure minimum internal temperatures of cooking meat are met:
- Beef, Pork, Lamb, & Veal (steaks, roasts, and chops): 145 °F with a 3 minute rest time
- Ground meats: 160 °F
- Whole poultry, poultry breasts, & ground poultry: 165 °F
For more food safety precautions, check out my latest article “Picnics, Cook Outs and Summer Parties— Make them Safe and Satisfying” in Health and Wellness Magazine.