Summer is a great time for gatherings with family and friends. As you head for the picnic basket, grill and cooler, I would like to remind you of the following tips from USDA to keep your food safe and your family healthy to enjoy the summer activities.
- When planning your grocery list, put the perishable items last to buy at the grocery and quickly transport to home.
- Thaw meat and poultry in the refrigerator….NOT ON THE KITCHEN COUNTER!! If your meat is still partially frozen when you’re ready to leave, no problem. Just cook it a bit longer at the picnic. (To avoid charbroiling or burning items, place foil on the grill rack.)
- Cook everything thoroughly. Hamburger patties, pork chops, and ribs should be cooked until all the pink is gone, and poultry until there is no red in the joints. Use a meat thermometer to be sure. When in doubt, cook it a bit longer.
- Take what you know about kitchen cleanliness out to the grill. If there’s no water available, take your own or use wet wipes to thoroughly clean your hands before working with food. Keep bacteria on raw meat and poultry from spreading. Wash your hands again after working with raw meat or poultry and before handling other food.
- Take up cooked meat and poultry with clean utensils onto a fresh plate for serving. Don’t re-use utensils, plates, or bowls you used with the raw product, for either the cooked meat or other foods.
- Keep all perishable food in a cooler with the ice on top (since cold air descends). Ham, potato or macaroni salad, hamburger, hot dogs, lunch meat, cooked beef or chicken, deviled eggs, custard or cream pies should all be kept cold. For serving, especially for large groups, consider taking a child’s inflatable swimming pool along. Fill it with ice, and then everyone can put their food items in to keep them cold. Remember to put food away safely before spending the afternoon in games or conversation.
- For replenishing food, have a replacement dish ready instead of filling up the current one on the table. Keep the cooler in the shade with a blanket over it to protect from the heat. Avoid keeping it in the trunk of the car. If possible transport it in the back seat where it is likely to be cooler.
- Put perishable foods back in the cooler as soon as you finish eating. Don’t leave them out while you visit, swim or hike. If the food is left out for more than two hours, discard the leftovers (no more than one hour if it’s really hot!). Plan conservatively so that you don’t have a lot of leftovers. Remember, if in doubt, throw it out!
- If you are eating more than one meal out of doors, maybe a second cooler is needed that won’t be opened until needed. Consider a separate cooler for beverages.
- Pack your picnic basket in the reverse order of items needed. The table covering should be the last thing in and the first thing out. Use plastic or foil to cover an end of the table to provide a clean working area. Keep the foil to wrap up dirty utensils for the trip home.
Eating outdoors is a great experience! Take time to plan your meal and involve your family in the preparation so that everyone gets enough to eat and food is taken care of properly. It’s activities like these that create special memories for you and your family members. Take care and have fun!
Ohio State University Extension embraces human diversity and is committed to ensuring that all research and related educational programs are available to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis without regard to race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, or veteran status. This statement is in accordance with United States Civil Rights Laws and the USDA.
Keith L. Smith, Ph.D., Associate Vice President for Agricultural Administration and Director, Ohio State University Extension
TDD No. 800-589-8292 (Ohio only) or 614-292-1868