Tomorrow is International Picnic Day! Whether you are at a ball field, a concert or
just flying a kite in the park, having a picnic is one of the official signs of summer and relaxation. So that everyone enjoys the moment and you have no regrets later, keeping the food safe should be a priority. Here are a few tips to make sure that happens:
COOL IT. Coolers are essential. If you are planning on staying all day, take two. One cooler can be used for the beverages and food that will be eaten first and a second one that won’t be opened until food is needed later in the day. Remember that cold air descends, so place ice packs on top, once the food is packed. Also remember that everything should be cold before placing it in the cooler, and anything that could be frozen to help keep foods cold is a good idea (like juice boxes). Keep the coolers in the passenger
portion of the car if possible (it’s much cooler than the trunk).
READY TO GO. Choosing foods that are already prepared makes the event a little easier. Salads, sandwiches, or even deviled eggs need to be kept cold. Be sure to not to leave any food out for more than two hours (or one hour if it’s 90 degrees or hotter). Packing food in small amounts to remove individual portions is a great option for food safety. If you have several people participating, consider using a galvanized washtub or child’s pool filled with ice to put several dishes in to keep them cold during serving.
GRILL SAFELY. If you are grilling on site, create a clean work surface by placing foil over the end of the table to use as a work surface. Remember to wash your hands often or even use gloves when handling raw meat if hand washing is difficult. Use a clean plate to place cooked meat on; never use the same plate that held the raw meat to serve the cooked item (unless it’s been thoroughly washed).
KEEP IT HOT. Baked beans, grilled meat or other items that you serve hot need to be kept above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Crock pots or warming dishes will help keep the food safe if electricity is available. Chafing dishes with burners can also serve to keep food hot. Leftovers may be risky if they are not kept hot or cold. If you have any doubt about the safety of the food, throw it out!
These are a few quick tips to make sure you and your family have a wonderful memory of the day you spent together. Taking care to keep hot foods hot, cold foods cold and as clean as possible will help you enjoy the memories in the making!
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.
Editor’s Note: This post was first published in 2011.