We call Nancy Lowell our “Chef-in-Residence,” but that’s really wishful thinking. If she were, we’d be eating A LOT better! Regardless, her tips here will at least keep us eating SAFER.
Here are 21 ways to keep your food safer, and your friends and family healthy during the hot summer months. Think you’re prepared? Before you get started, take this quiz! Yeah! Summer is here, picnics, barbecues, block parties, pool parties, and food poisoning! This time of year toting food around can be risky business, don’t take chances, take action!
- Invest in insulated lunch bags for your camper, that lunch can go from healthy to dangerous in just a few hours when the temperatures soar, and put some ice, or an ice wand in the bag (I have one that came with a water bottle)
- Contrary to popular belief, commercial mayo will actually act as a preservative, it won’t accelerate spoilage. Chicken without mayo spoils faster than chicken salad made with mayo (you still need to keep everything as cool as possible !)
- Wash melons with mild soapy water before cutting, those melons grow on the dirt, and the skins can carry all kinds of bacteria that as you cut will go right into the melon
- When cooking out NEVER use the same platter for the cooked food that you used for the raw food
- When planning a cook-out that will last several hours keep all raw meats in a well iced cooler (you want it as cold as your beer)
- You can start with frozen beef patties, these can be cooked right from the freezer, so pack your cooler with frozen burgers
- Don’t worry about ketchup and mustard, they won’t spoil in the heat, and you can ignore the dates on those as well, it takes years for them to spoil
- Use mesh domes to cover cooked food, flies live a very disgusting life, and you really don’t want to share your food with them!!
- If you travel a long way to the grocery store, or have several stops to make on your way home, use coolers to pack the cold food, or keep the food in the air-conditioned car, rather than the trunk
- When buying meat and fish, ask for a bag of ice to keep them cool, most stores will give these to you, and good stores will offer it
- Once food has been cooked, if you haven’t consumed it, or refrigerated it in four hours, throw it away!
- You can tell if food is spoiled, it will smell bad, feel bad(slimy), and look bad, if your food does any of these things, toss it
- Dips and spreads need to stay cool, if you’re eating outside, use a metal bowl, and put the bowl of food into a larger bowl filled with ice
- Processed cheese like American cheese can be left out, and will not spoil, it will get very soft, and the oils may start to separate which is not attractive, but it isn’t a health risk
- Beans and starchy foods can spoil, and shouldn’t be left out, on the counter or on the picnic table, these, like meat should not be out of refrigeration for more than a total of four hours (cumulative, not four hours at a time)
- If you don’t have a cooler, invest in some insulated freezer bags, and ice packs for the beach, many people stay at the beach all day, and bring enough food to eat for several hours, keep it as cool as possible by not constantly opening and closing the bag or cooler
- If you’re going camping in a remote location rely on preserved foods, fresh whole fruit will be fine, but cut fruit won’t last out of refrigeration, nor will berries.
- Burgers need to be cooked through to an internal temperature of 160°F, but it’s safe to eat steak rare, this is because when e-coli is present on meat, it lives only on the surface of the meat, grinding meat mixes it all up, cooking steak (even rare) will kill any e-coli bacteria on the meat’s surface
- When buying frozen packaged food always inspect the box, if there are signs of the box having been wet, don’t buy that package, this means it was defrosted and refrozen, and you have no way of knowing how long it was thawed, or what caused that
- When you’re at someone else’s house, pay attention to how they are handling your food, and if it looks, smells, or seems suspect, stick to the chips and pretzels
- The golden rule of food safety is WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT!
If you have any questions about food safety, please write them in the comments, and I promise to answer all of them! And of course, if you want more you can check out my e-book, Food and Kitchen Safety; A Guide for the Home Cook