For those of us in the northern regions of the country, barbecues and picnics are cherished social events. Make the best of this warm weather ritual with these tips for safe food handling.
Keep cold food cold!
❅ Cold food should be held at or below 40° F.
❅ Meat, poultry, and seafood may be packed while still frozen so that it stays colder longer.
❅ Keep raw meat securely wrapped so their juices don’t contaminate already cooked foods or items eaten raw.
❅ Keep beverages in a separate cooler that will be opened more often.
❅ Transport coolers in the air-conditioned back seat of the vehicle, instead of the hot trunk.
❅ In hot weather, never let food sit out for more than one hour.
Keep hot food hot!
❂ After cooking meats on the grill, keep them hot until served - at 140° F or warmer.
❂ Cook thoroughly. Use a food thermometer to be sure the food has reached a safe internal temp. Don't ruin a good cut of meat by guessing!
Whole poultry - 180° F
Breasts - 170° F
Hamburgers (beef) - 160° F
Ground poultry - 165° F
Pork - 160° F
Fin fish - 140° F
❂ Beef, veal, lamb steaks, roasts and chops can be cooked to 140° F.
❂ NEVER partially grill meats and finish cooking them later.
Before you begin!
❦ Food safety begins with hand washing - even in outdoor settings. Pack hand sanitizer for picnics.
❦ Marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter.
❦ Use a separate brush for raw and cooked meats; wash the brush in hot, soapy water between uses.
❦ Don’t use the same platter and utensils that previously held raw meat or seafood to serve cooked meats. Harmful bacteria from uncooked drippings can contaminate safely cooked food.
What about the cancer risks with grilled foods?
As long as you don't "char" the meat, the risk is minimal. Rare to medium produces fewer mutagens than well done meats. Precooking in the microwave for 1&1/2 - 2 minutes can reduce mutagens by 90%. Sea food produces less than red meat and poultry. Veggieburgers and vegetables generate little or no mutagens. Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage) can even help the liver detoxify mutagens.