Cookouts are a summer staple—and for good reason! There’s nothing quite like getting the people you love together to share food and fun in the sun. However, it’s important to take a few food safety precautions to make sure you or your guests don’t leave your cookout with a bout of food poisoning.
Here are our top four tips for having a summer cookout that will be safe and healthy for everyone:
1. Use a Meat Thermometer
Even the best grill master should defer to a meat thermometer to know if meats are cooked enough to safely eat. Simply insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of your burger, chicken or hot dog to make sure the internal temperature doesn’t put your cookout guests at risk. Check this handy chart from Foodsafety.gov to learn specific recommended temperatures for whatever you’re cooking.
2. Be Mindful of Cross-contamination
If you’re handling raw meat in the grilling process, make sure you immediately and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and hot water. It’s also important to make sure you’re using different plates, cutting boards or utensils for raw meat so the rest of your meal doesn’t accidentally become contaminated. When in doubt, wash it.
3. Keep Perishables Out of the Sun
Bacteria grow at a rapid pace in what is referred to as the “danger zone” between 40 and 140 degrees F. So, if you’re bringing potato salad or deviled eggs to a cookout, play it safe and keep your contribution in the fridge until it’s time to eat. Then, make sure food isn’t left out at room temperature for longer than two hours. If the temperature outside is hotter than 90 degrees F, your food shouldn’t be left out for more than one hour. As always, play it safe—if you think you’ve left something outside too long, but can’t quite remember how long it’s been, just toss it.
4. Don’t Wait to Eat
Even though socializing is half the fun of a cookout, don’t put off fixing your plate once the spread is served. The safest time to consume perishable foods is immediately after they are taken out of the refrigerator, so you may also want to rethink second helpings of certain foods if they’ve been sitting out in the sun for longer than an hour.
With these four tips in mind, you can throw a summer cookout that keeps everyone healthy and happy. Just don’t forget the sunscreen!
Need some ideas for summer recipes? Download our free “Taste of Summer” cookbook here.