Food poisoning reports around the country become twice as common during the summer months as they are at any other time in the year. This is because increasing numbers of people rediscover the joys of eating in the great outdoors and try to have last-minute barbeques rather than planning them out ahead of time. Because people are more likely to drink alcohol at cookouts and are generally more focused on family fun, standards for food hygiene can be neglected.
If you’re having over family and friends for a cookout, you obviously want to make sure your food is safely prepared and stored. A large percentage of cases of food poisoning that involves barbeques and grilling. As a result, it is important for you to properly prepare your food and keep your attention on safe cooking instead of on socializing or on showing off how well you work behind the grill.
Here are some barbeque food safety essentials to keep in mind. We also have an article on safety tips for using a gas grill.
Barbecue Food Safety Essentials
Wash your hands with soap and water before handling any barbecue foods such as chicken, meat, pork, or fish to kill any harmful bacteria. Undoubtedly, you’ll be cutting up a variety of foods besides the grilling meats for your cookout. So, make sure to wash up all your knives, cutting boards, and any utensils after cutting up each type of cold food to prevent cross-contamination. It will lower the risk of food poisoning.
Transport Food Safely
Pack a cooler when transporting perishables to an outdoor picnic or party for preventing bacterial growth. Keep perishables in a separate cooler from drinks that are not opened frequently to assure meats stay cold. Slip pre-grilled foods or cold foods into a refrigerator at your destination if cooler transport isn’t an option.
Smart chefs know that all vegetables and fruits should be thoroughly washed before placing them in a cooler with ice to prevent cross-contamination.
Although your primary focus may be grilling, there is still a good chance you’re in charge of all the fabulous side dishes for the cookout like desserts, chicken salad, deviled eggs and dips. Make sure all the cold foods are kept well chilled to 40°F or lower.
Check Your Expirations
When selecting prime cuts at the meat market, check sell-by or expiration dates. Don’t buy packages with broken seals or those that contain meat that looks a sickly gray. It’s probably already bad!
After purchasing fish, poultry or meat, plan to grill it within one or two days for maximum freshness and safety. Regardless of how much fun you’re having at the picnic, make sure grilled leftovers hit the refrigerator or ice cooler within 2 hours.
Ensure All Food is Thoroughly Cooked
The primary root of food poisoning at most barbeques is meat that has not been thoroughly cooked. With this in mind, it is essential to make sure that you are thoroughly and properly cooking any meat products you have on the grill. This also means you need to know ahead of time how much time it takes to cook different cuts of meat. Ideally, the chicken should reach 165°F, hamburgers, and meats 160°F and fish should flake apart.
Similarly, if you plan on making cooked food for a large number of people, it might be a good idea to first cook the meat in the oven indoors before transferring it to the barbeque for warming up and adding finishing touches. While this might not seem as rugged or authentic as doing everything out on the grill, it is undoubtedly a safer tactic, as when you cook this way, you will know in advance that all of your meat is safe to eat.
Avoid Cross-Contamination with Raw Meat & Veggies
It is possible to develop food poisoning by eating safely cooked meat that became infected with germs that started in raw meat. This is known as cross-contamination, and it is a frequent cause of summer sickness. Try to watch out for cooked and raw meats and keep them separate when you are outdoors or indoors. Make sure your guests are also aware of where the cooked meat is and where the raw meat is, and that there is no chance of either touching.
Cross – contamination can also occur when you use the same plates, tongs, or utensils to handle cooked meats and raw meats. However, it is also possible to spread germs with cooked and uncooked vegetables. As a result, make it a point to use separate utensils and tools when it comes to both preparing and serving all types of food during the big day.
Thaw Your Meat
If you have frozen meat, or any other raw food on hand, you will need to make sure it is thawed properly before you try to cook it on the grill. Improperly thawed meat can also lead to food poisoning. Since many people plan on holding their barbeques in the evening due to later sunset times in the summer, it is important to start thawing your meat out earlier in the day so it’s not left until the last minute and improperly thawed in a hurry.
Effects of Food Poisoning
The truth is, food poisoning symptoms are pretty nasty. If food becomes contaminated or is not handled properly, you could find yourself or guests suffering from diarrhea, chills, fever, abdominal cramps, and headaches or vomiting. Typically, pregnant women, elderly folks, and younger children may have severe or life-threatening symptoms after eating barbecue that’s been improperly handled.
To Wrap Up
With these essential food safety tips in mind, you will know that your next barbeque will be as safe for you and your guests as it is tasty, and there will be no unpleasant surprises after everyone has eaten. And what’s most important no one will end up in the hospital!