By Jenni Wolf
August is a great time to review food safety. Summer is in full swing with picnics, BBQs and lake days happening a plenty that often involve packing a scrumptious spread or grilling up some good eats.
Pack perishables like deli meat, cheese, and cut fruits and veggies in a
cooler and shelf-stable items like crackers, breads, chips in a bag for a
safe, build-your-own-style picnic meal.
Photo by Jenni Wolf.
Pack sandwiches in a small cooler or insulated lunch bag on a hike and
enjoy lunch with a view! Don’t want to carry a cooler? Choose PB&J as
this option is stable at room temp!
Photo by Jenni Wolf.
Read on for a few reminders on how to make sure you are preparing and storing food safely during the summer heat:
• Pack a cooler. Transport refrigerated items—such as deli meats, hotdogs, salads and cheese—
using a cooler with ice to make sure they don’t get too warm during transportation or during your event. An insulated lunch bag with some ice packs works great too for smaller items. Keep items in the fridge—your fridge should be held at 41 degrees or lower, now is a good time to check on that—until you are ready to transport food.
• Cold food can be kept out of refrigeration for up to 6 hours, as long as it does not exceed an internal temperature of 70 degrees. Now, no one is going to likely whip out a food thermometer mid-picnic to take the temperature of the potato salad… so that leads me to my next tip!
• Store food on ice for serving. Set containers of pasta and potato salads in a larger container filled with ice. Return items to coolers or the fridge after most are done eating. Remind others of where the leftovers can be found so they can access and eat them safely, rather than let them bake in the sun for the afternoon where risk for foodborne pathogens would increase.
• Don’t cross-contaminate. Everyone loves a juicy slice of fresh tomato atop their cheeseburger so make sure to include some in your spread. Also, be sure to slice it up using a clean and separate knife and cutting board from any that you might have used to prepare the burgers or any other raw meat items. Using separate utensils ensures that no harmful bacteria or viruses that could cause foodborne illnesses get transferred to raw foods, which won’t be cooked and could potentially make you sick.
• Be mindful with your meat. Now, this is a time where I recommend packing and busting out that meat thermometer. Meat thermometers are relatively inexpensive and a great tool—
you get the confidence and assurance that your meat is cooked safely and also prevent yourself from overcooking items as well. Cooking temps for some of the most popular “summer stars” are as follows:
• hotdogs – 135 degrees
• steak or chops – 145 degrees
• bbq or grilled chicken – 165 degrees
• burgers made with ground beef – 155 degrees
• burgers made with ground turkey or sausage – 165 degrees
Remember these are minimum temperatures, so you can cook further to your desired liking. Another thing to be mindful with meat is leftovers. Let extra burgers and dogs cool for a bit before storing them back in the cooler or fridge where they will be kept safe until you’re ready to dig into some leftovers.
Happy, safe and tasty summer eats to you all!
Jenni Wolf is a practicing registered dietitian.