Montana’s warm summer days offer ideal weather for picnics and backyard barbecues.
While warm temperatures are ideal for outdoor gatherings, the weather also provides the right environment for disease-causing bacteria to grow in foods and cause illnesses. By following a few food safety tips in preparing your family’s favorite dishes, the risk of foodborne illness will be less of a worry.
Buying and storing
Begin by purchasing food items from an approved source and checking food product quality before purchase. Promptly refrigerate potentially hazardous foods such as meats, chicken, fish and seafood, salads and cut fruits and vegetables. Keep them at a temperature of 41 degrees Fahrenheit until ready to cook or serve.
When transporting food to that favorite picnic spot, pack perishable items directly from the refrigerator or freezer into a cooler to keep them cold. A full cooler maintains cold temperatures longer, so pack plenty of extra ice or freezer packs to ensure a constant temperature. Also, remember to keep perishables in sealed plastic bags to prevent the transfer of bacteria or microorganisms from one food to another.
Before handling any food, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. Rinsing raw meat and poultry is not recommended, as splashing can potentially cause cross-contamination. Thoroughly wash cutting boards, utensils and other surfaces before and after use.
Take care when preparing melons with hard rinds, such as cantaloupe, musk melons and watermelon. Before cutting melons, wash them thoroughly and disinfect the exterior rind for 30 seconds with a mixture of one teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water. This eliminates bacteria that could be pushed by the knife blade from the rind into the fruit.
When preparing foods, always use one cutting board for raw meats and another cutting board for salads or veggies that will not be cooked. Likewise, do not place foods that are ready-to-eat on anything that was previously in contact with raw meat, poultry or fish.
When grilling, use a food thermometer instead of guess work to be sure that foods are cooked to a safe temperature. The minimum cooking temperature is 145 F for steak and chops, 155 F for ground meats and sausage and 165 F for poultry. Cooking to these minimum temperatures kills any bacteria that may be present.
Discard any remaining, used marinade. If you want to use some as sauce, bring it a boil to kill the bacteria or make extra and keep it separate from raw meat.
Refrigerate leftovers within two hours of taking them off the grill if the air temperature is below 90 F. Refrigerator your leftovers within one hour, if the temperature is above 90 F.
By practicing these simple but effective guidelines for food safety, outdoor barbecues and picnics will be safe and pleasant dining experiences.