10 Rules for Keeping Food Safe Outdoors
Food-borne illnesses are no picnic, so prepare your food the proper way.
2) Wash cooking equipment, dishes, and utensils between uses. continued...
The FDA even recommends that you sanitize your cutting board with chlorine bleach, and replace it if the surface gets worn and difficult to clean. You might also want to use different colored cutting boards that are assigned to certain food groups as an extra precaution. Do not use wooden cutting boards; even when thoroughly cleaned they provide an environment where bacteria can grow.
Other common mistakes that can lead to contamination include letting raw food juices drip on other foods on the grill during cooking, or using utensils that have touched raw meat to stir other cooked foods, a big no-no, says Slade, who has worked in food safety for about 26 years.
3) Rinse fruits and vegetables.
Meat and poultry aren't the only foods that can harbor bacteria. You also need to be careful with fruits and vegetables. "Fresh produce items are best rinsed before consumption," says Slade.
4) Keep your cool.
Store perishables in a cooler with ice on top of the food, not just underneath. Bring one cooler for drinks and another to store foods like chicken salad, coleslaw, cheese, and other perishables. Keep raw meat and poultry separate from other foods -- either by using plastic bags or different coolers.
As a general rule, never eat cooked meat or dairy products that have been out of a refrigerator more than two hours. The same rules apply for condiments, once containers are opened, DuBois tells WebMD. Dishes made with mayonnaise are notorious culprits. However, this rule does not apply to raw meat or poultry. "You should have a zero-tolerance for leaving raw meat out, even if it is being marinated or has been made into patties for grilling," says DuBois.
You need to be particularly careful with seafood. Raw seafood may bring on viral food poisoning. "Shellfish should be kept alive until cooked, and then consumed immediately. Don't leave shellfish or other types of seafood out for any period of time," says DuBois.
5) Invest in a meat thermometer.
The time frame necessary to cook foods thoroughly on a grill may be different from your stove at home. "A meat thermometer is the best way to be sure you have cooked foods adequately," says DuBois.
Unfortunately, people aren't always going to take the time to check hamburgers on the barbecue with a thermometer, says Slade, who is also an associate professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Hamburger meat can be very risky if not handled properly. Unlike a steak, hamburger meat is chopped and reduced, and the bacteria may get internalized, says Slade. "Once you sear a steak on the outside, it tends to be safe. This isn't the case with hamburger, which needs to be cooked until the meat in the middle is brown."
Hamburgers aren't the only foods that should be thoroughly cooked -- eggs shouldn't be runny, hot dogs should be piping hot, and chicken shouldn't be pink in the middle. Also, don't partially pre-cook meats or poultry to "finish off" later, which may facilitate bacterial growth, and remember to defrost meat or poultry in the refrigerator, not on the counter.