Protecting your family from food-borne illness is crucial when cooking outdoors. Warmer temperatures and limited chilling resources create obstacles for cooking outside, although the right steps and precautions can make these situations manageable.
Transport your food properly. Until you begin cooking you’ll want to place cold foods on ice or frozen gel packs to be chilled at 40 degrees or below. Meat can be transported frozen so it thaws over time and stays colder longer. Keep meats wrapped separately and make sure their juices don’t leak to other foods. Cross-contamination is one of the quickest ways to spread food-borne illness.
If you’re marinating your food for grilling, make sure to do so in a refrigerated environment. Do not reuse marinade for flavoring cooked foods. Reserve a portion of the marinade before adding to the meat and use the separated amount later in cooking.
Cooking temperatures and thorough cooking greatly reduce the risk of food-borne illness. Keep a food thermometer on hand to make sure grilled foods reach their proper temperatures. The FDA suggests the following temperatures for your foods:
|Steaks and roasts||145°F|
|Shrimp, lobster, and crabs||cook until pearly and opaque|
|Clams, oysters, and mussels||cook until the shells are open|
When it comes to serving your food your focus should be maintaining the proper temperature. The FDA urges that “the key is to never let your picnic food remain in the “Danger Zone” – between 40° F and 140° F – for more than 2 hours, or 1 hour if outdoor temperatures are above 90° F. This is when bacteria in food can multiply rapidly, and lead to foodborne illness.”
Using these FDA appointed guidelines will help you to have an enjoyable and fun outdoor dining experience without the side effects associated with poor food preparation.