Cookout Food Safety Tips


“While most Americans realize that May through September picnicposes the biggest threat of food poisoning, a recent survey conducted by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics shows that consumers are not practicing correct outdoor food safety procedures.” – Home Food Safety

Cookouts, outdoor entertaining, picnics (whatever you call them) are a lot of fun!   It’s a great way to enjoy the weather, friends, family, and great food!  We tend to think we’ve been to countless cookouts, and making a fuss about food safety is overkill.  However, getting sick because food was not properly handled, prepared, or stored is not fun.  Food related illnesses happen more often than we think.  For your next outdoor gathering follow these food safety tips:

1.  Keep cold food cold.

  • Keep perishable foods (such as hot dogs, burgers, poultry, deviled eggs, and macaroni or potato salads), at a temperature of 40 degrees or below (to avoid the “danger zone” temperature where bacteria thrives) by packing them in a well-insulated cooler with plenty of ice or ice packs. A full cooler will maintain its cold temperature longer than a partially filled one.
  • Take two insulated coolers (one for drinks and the other for perishable foods)so warm air won’t reach the perishables each time someone grabs a chilled beverage.
  • At the picnic location, keep coolers tightly closed in a shady area and add ice often.
  • Keep picnic food in the coolers until you need them; remove raw food only when you’re ready to put it on the grill.
  • Place foods like chicken salad and desserts in shallow containers, set in a deep pan filled with ice.  Drain off water as ice melts and replace ice frequently.

2.  Cook food properly.  

  • Never partially cook or grill food with the intent of finishing the cooking later
  • Use a food thermometer to make sure your foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature (hamburgers to at least 160°F and chicken breasts to 165°F).
  • Keep cooked food hot until it’s time to eat.  Wrap hot food well, and place in an insulated container.  You’ll need to keep the food heated to at least 140°F. 

3.  Have leftovers?

  • Cook too many hot dogs? Any cooked foods you want to save for later in the day, or to take home must be promptly chilled to below 40°F. Wrap them (never reuse wrapping that held raw meat), and place them in a cooler with plenty of ice as soon as possible.
  • Discard any perishable food left outside for more than two hours (one hour if the temperature is above 80 degrees F).

What food safety tips would you add to this list?

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