Warm summer weather offers an ideal backdrop for the perfect outdoor party. Just add food, drinks and friends, and you’ll have all the ingredients for a great time.
Of course, if you’ve hosted a party lately, you know it’s not quite that easy. There’s a lot of hard work involved – especially when it comes to preparing food.
After all… those warm temperatures that allow us to relax by the pool also provide opportunities for foodborne bacteria to thrive.
So before you fire up the grill, check out these tips to keep you – and your guests – happy and healthy during your picnic or barbecue.
Every good meal should start with safe food preparation. Following good food prep techniques will ensure your meal isn’t contaminated before it leaves the kitchen. Here are some tips to help you prepare food safely:
- Keep it clean. Before preparing food, it’s important to wash your hands, utensils and prep surfaces with soap and water. This reduces the risk of contaminating your food with germs that could cause food poisoning.
- Rinse fruits and vegetables. Avoid the temptation to just cut and serve your fresh fruits and vegetables. You never know what germs they could have picked up on their journey from the farm to your kitchen – so start by rinsing them under running water.
- Avoid cross-contamination. Eggs, raw meat, poultry and seafood can be breeding grounds for foodborne bacteria. When preparing these foods, be sure to use separate knives, plates and cutting boards. You should also keep them separated from other foods in your refrigerator.
After all that hard work preparing your food, it’s finally time to fire up the grill. Whether you’re a barbecue novice or an experienced grill master, it’s important to ensure your food is cooked to perfection.
When cooking meat, you can’t tell if it’s done by looking at color and texture alone. Instead, use a food thermometer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), here are the safe minimum internal temperatures your foods need to reach to destroy harmful bacteria:
- 145°F for whole cuts of beef, pork, veal, and lamb.
- 160°F for ground meats, such as beef and pork.
- 165°F for all poultry, including ground chicken and turkey.
- 145°F for fish
Congratulations! The hardest work is behind you. Now, it’s time to impress your friends and family with the meal you’ve prepared. Here are some tips to safely serve your food:
- Use clean utensils. When you’re finished cooking, don’t use the same utensils that handled your raw meat or eggs. Instead, grab clean serving utensils and a clean plate or platter.
- Keep hot food hot... Hot foods should be kept at or above 145°F. To accomplish this, keep your grilled items on the grill (but away from direct heat) to keep them warm or store them in an insulated container.
- … and cold food cold. Nobody wants to eat that potato salad you left sitting in the sun all afternoon. Cold foods should be kept below 40°F. So store cold items in a cooler, or serve them in a shallow pan filled with ice.
At the end of your party, chances are you’ll have some leftover food. Remember to stash it in the refrigerator ASAP. Food should never be left out more than two hours, or one hour in temperatures above 90 °F. If your food has been sitting out longer, throw it away to be safe.
Enjoy the party
Now you’ve got all the food safety facts you need to host a stress-free summer cookout. For more top tips, check out this guide to safe grilling. And don’t forget to turn off the gas when you’re through!
While you’re in party-planning mode, don’t forget to check your homeowners insurance to ensure you’re covered in case of the unexpected. If you have questions, you can always contact an Erie Insurance agent to learn more and get a free quote.