The Fourth of July weekend with its barbecues, picnics, and camping trips is just days away. While you are planning for these events, it’s important to keep food safety front of mind to stay healthy, have fun, and avoid getting sick!
Keep perishable foods chilled
For foods that require refrigeration, like meats, cheeses, eggs, and mayo-based salads, remember the 2-hour rule: perishable foods should not be left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
The 2-hour window may need to be even shorter if perishable foods are outside in the heat or, worse, sitting in a hot car. If you have several errands to run after stopping at the grocery store, consider bringing a cooler to pack perishable items for the trip home.
For a meal outdoors, keep perishable items refrigerated right up until they are ready to be cooked or served. If you are picnicking or camping, consider using dry ice in your ice chest to keep perishable foods at a safe temperature. If socializing is likely to go on for a couple of hours or more, plan to take a break to put leftovers away as people finish eating. Consider using small serving bowls to limit the amount of food sitting out at any one time, and refill serving bowls from refrigerated portions as needed. It’s especially important to keep meat cool until it is ready to be cooked and refrigerate any uncooked pieces as soon as possible. Thaw and marinate meat in the refrigerator rather than on the counter.
Another risky area in food prep is cross-contamination. Keep raw meat separate from other foods, especially food that is ready to eat. If you are picnicking or camping, either put raw meat in a separate ice chest, or in a sealed container at the bottom of the ice chest, with ready-to-eat items above the meat. Knives and other utensils, cutting boards, and plates or dishes that come in contact with raw meat should not be used for other foods unless they are first thoroughly washed with hot water and soap. If possible, use separate utensils and equipment for raw meat. Avoid rinsing raw meat, as that is a good way to spread germs around the kitchen and remember to disinfect any counter surfaces that come in contact with raw meat.
Cook meat to the correct temperature
When preparing meat, the best way to tell if it is done is by using a meat thermometer. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat. The correct internal temperature for doneness varies by the type of meat and the cut: 165° for all poultry and precooked ham; 160° for ground beef, pork, veal, and lamb; and 145° for fresh beef, pork, veal, lamb, and fish with fins. Shrimp, lobster, crab, and scallops should be cooked until the flesh is white and opaque, and clams, oysters, and mussels should be cooked until the shells open.
By remembering a few simple practices for food safety, we can keep food poisoning off the guest list at summer gatherings!
If you have specific questions about food safety or would like individualized guidance in nutrition, reach out to the Harmons dietitians at firstname.lastname@example.org.