It’s summertime! That means it’s time to plan some fun family picnics, baseball game tailgates or waterside barbecues. But picnics can turn sour real fast if the food goes bad. When it comes to picnics, food safety is everything. And food safety is all about hot and cold.
Let’s start with the cooler. First, make sure everything is cold before you begin to fill the cooler. Start with your raw meats, poultry or fish, placing them on the bottom so they don’t drip onto other foods. Then fill the cooler, packing snugly, and filling with ice or ice packs or even frozen water bottles. If possible, transport the cooler in the air-conditioned car and not the hot trunk. Once you arrive, keep the cooler in the shade during the festivities and replenish the ice as it melts. Cold water cannot keep foods cold enough to be safe.
Keep hot food hot – at least 140º – and cold food cold – 40º or less – to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. If you are picking up hot fried chicken or other entrees, do so on the drive to the event. It only takes a couple of hours of sitting at room temperature for food to be unsafe to eat, so if your group is going for a hike or a swim, pack up leftovers in your cooler or just discard. If in doubt, throw it out!
What cookout would it be without Grandma’s potato salad or Aunt Mary’s deviled eggs? Contrary to popular belief, the mayonnaise is not the culprit if these foods go bad. Store-bought mayo is made with pasteurized eggs and preservatives that kill any bacteria, so don’t blame the Hellman’s. Still, salads need to be kept cold until they are served. The only foods that don’t need special handling are cookies, breads and rolls. Just keep them covered to preserve freshness.
So round up the gang, spread out the picnic blankets, enjoy these leisurely summer days and enjoy your outing worry-free!