The summer months are a great time to get the grill fueled up for blissful outdoor dining!
The family picnics and reunions, and all the backyard barbecues in between means more meals are eaten outside and on-the-go. It's always important to follow safety rules regarding food preparation and storage, or you could be ringing the dinner bell for all sorts of uninvited microscopic guests.
Summer grilling tips:
1) Wash your hands, or at least have hand sanitizer and wet wipes within reach for a quick and easy clean-up — It seems so simple an oversight to cause such a dangerous situation, but unwashed hands are a main cause for illness from food. Most people - hopefully - know to wash their hands after using the restroom, but doing so after changing a diaper or playing with the dog might not happen in the hustle and bustle of a busy family picnic.
2) Marinate foods in the refrigerator, never outdoors or on the kitchen counter, and never reuse marinade — Marinating meats to prepare on the grill is also a huge blind spot in food safety with plenty of room for error. The Georgia Department of Agriculture recommends that chicken be marinated for no more than two days, while beef and steaks may soak for five. Just make sure to marinate everything in the refrigerator (never on the countertop) and do not use that same marinade later as a sauce for cooked food unless that portion of liquid was put aside beforehand and never used on raw meat.
3) Don't cross-contaminate your utensils — Always use a clean plate or tongs for serving cooked food. Never reuse items that touched raw meat or poultry to serve the food once it is cooked. Cross-contamination can happen enroute from grill to table as well. Burgers and steaks that are cooked to perfection yet carried to the table on the same plate that previously held the raw version can mean transfer of bacteria. Keep plenty of clean utensils and plates beside the grill for transport to avoid making this common mistake.
Also, check for detached bristles from a bristle brush that might have made their way into your food.
4) Keep your cooler closed and out of direct sunlight — Activities in the hot sun undoubtedly mean lots of trips to the cooler for cold drinks. It's a good idea to pack all beverages in one cooler and all food items in another to keep the latter as cold as possible before preparation and serving.
5) Don't let your food spoil — Once prepared, the Food and Drug Administration recommends avoiding letting food linger for more than two hours in what's referred to as the "danger zone" — between 40 and 140 degrees — as bacteria can multiply rapidly. That time limit drops to just one hour when outside temperatures are above 90, which isn't uncommon in the South. So keep hot food hot (above 140 degrees) and cold food cold (cooler than 40 degrees) until serving time. And remember: If in doubt, throw it out. There's always a drive-thru on the way home.
From our content partner Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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