The hot weather is the perfect time to picnic and cook outdoors, but the warm weather also creates the perfect environment to support the growth of harmful food bugs. Keep your food and family safe by following these simple tips.
#1: Use a thermometer
A thermometer is the number one tool to make sure your grilled goodies are cooked to the perfect temperature to destroy pesky pathogens. Studies show that checking the color of the food isn’t an accurate way to tell if your food is cooked through.
#2: Monitor leftovers
Perishable food like cooked or raw meats and salads should never be left out at room temperature for over 2 hours. When the weather gets hot — above 90 degrees Fahrenheit — your window for leaving food lying out is only 1 hour. Toss any unrefrigerated food if it surpasses the time limit.
#3: Don’t re-use marinades
During the summer, meats and poultry are oftentimes marinated then grilled. Be sure to discard used marinade—this will prevent raw meat juices getting on your cooked food. If you plan on using the marinade as a sauce for cooked meat, reserve some before marinating the meat.
#4: Separate raw and cooked foods
If you’re getting ready to grill hot dogs, burgers, chicken or steak, be sure to use one plate for the raw stuff and a separate, clean plate for the newly cooked foods. The same rule applies for tongs and other serving utensils.
#5: Wash hands properly
Are you washing your hands properly by following these 5 steps?
#6: Pack a safe picnic
Raw meats and poultry should be packed in a separate cooler and surrounded by ice. If you have a long drive, coolers should be stored in the air-conditioned part of the car rather than in the hot trunk.
#7: Defrost meats properly
Leaving raw meat and poultry on the countertop to defrost will only allow dangerous food bugs to grow. Plan ahead and defrost meat 1-2 days in advance in the refrigerator.
#8: Wash produce thoroughly
Wash fruit and veggies in cool tap water before eating to eliminate any bacteria. This includes washing produce like melon before you slice or peel it to make sure bacteria isn’t transferred from the knife to your fruit or veggies.
#9: Wash reusable grocery store bags
If use reusable grocery bags, it’s important to wash them regularly. Studies found that harmful bacteria can linger in your totes and hitch a ride with ready-to-eat foods like produce.
#10: Decrease your cancer risk
Grilling is popular during the warm weather but improper cooking techniques can increase your cancer risk. Follow these simple tips to make sure you’re grilling safely.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby’s full bio »