Do you know the food temperature danger zone? Foods spoil more rapidly when they're kept between 40 and 140 degrees. That describes every dish at a potluck and probably every item on your summer picnic table.
To keep foods safe to eat throughout the summer months, keep hot foods in warming trays and store cold foods in ice baths, coolers or in the fridge until ready to be served.
Here are a few more tips from Martha Ross and Christina Thomas, registered dietitians with Carilion Clinic, to ensure safe grilling and eating outdoors this summer.
Watch the Clock
Don't leave food out for more than two hours, or one hour when it's above 90 degrees out.
Cook Meats Thoroughly
Follow the minimum cooking temperatures below, and use a meat thermometer to be sure you cook all meats to the safe minimum cooking temperature:
- Ground poultry and whole poultry parts (such as chicken breasts, thighs, etc.): 165 degrees
- Ground meats: 160 degrees
- Lamb, pork, veal and beef cuts: 145 degrees
- Fish: 145 degrees
Keep Steaks From Charring
According to the National Cancer Institute, carcinogens form when meat is cooked at temperatures above 300° and fat and juices from the meat drip onto the fire, causing flames. Find out more about safe grilling here.
Clean and Clean Again
Keep hands, utensils and surfaces clean.
Use warm, soapy water and wash for at least 20 seconds. Avoid cross-contamination by washing surfaces, utensils and hands between handling and preparing of different foods.
Watch for Food Poisoning
Know the signs and symptoms. Food poisoning occurs between 12 to 72 hours after consumption. Symptoms may include:
- Abdominal pain
If symptoms last longer than 72 hours, be sure to seek medical attention.
And remember to grill safely. If your cookout includes kids, check out Safe Kids Worldwide for tips on grilling safely when children are nearby. They recommend grilling safety tips from the National Fire Protection Association.