While it’s a pleasure to cook and eat outside during warm-weather months, the risks for contracting food-borne illnesses are higher when you prepare and serve a meal out of doors. There are several ways to make sure you don’t unwittingly infect yourself and your guests with dangerous illnesses like salmonella, E. coli and campylobacter.
First, wash your hands with soap and running water before preparing, serving or eating any food. People often skip this step when eating outside because running water isn’t readily available.
Secondly, handle raw meat and poultry safely. Make sure the raw meat and poultry or their juices don’t come in contact with any raw fruits or vegetables that are on the menu. It’s also important to not re-contaminate the cooked meat or poultry by putting it back on the dish that held it when it was raw, since bacteria could still be living there.
Thirdly, cook meat and poultry properly. Use a food thermometer that reads the meat or poultry’s internal temperature. The USDA recommends that chicken breasts be cooked to 170 degrees, hamburgers to 160 degrees, and steaks to 145 degrees.
Finally, protect your salads by thoroughly washing fresh fruits and vegetables under running water to remove all dirt and visible contamination. Cut away bruised or damaged parts, which are great spots for bacteria to thrive. Once you have cleaned and cut up the produce, keep it cool until you are ready to serve it. Even fresh fruit and veggies can grow harmful bacteria like salmonella when sitting outdoors in warm temperatures.
These days, people don’t make their own mayonnaise with raw eggs, instead using a store-bought product made with pasteurized eggs and an acid, like vinegar, when making things like potato salad. Though this keeps unsafe bacteria at bay, it’s still important to keep dishes made with mayo cold.
To make sure your summer gatherings stay fun, follow this rule of thumb: keep your cold foods cold and your hot foods hot, and your guests will go away happy and healthy.