Perfect Food Safe Picnics!
By Diane Van, Manager of the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline
No ants, no bees, no food poisoning! What better way to celebrate a beautiful summer day than with a picnic outside at the park, at the beach or even in your own backyard. Here are some tips to keep your picnic perfectly safe:
Plan ahead so you don’t forget essential items such as a food thermometer, cooler chest with ice, plenty of clean utensils, storage containers for leftovers, paper towels, and trash bags. Find out ahead of time if you’ll have running water, grills, picnic tables, and trash receptacles at the site.
In preparation for your picnic, don’t thaw meat on the counter overnight—that’s not safe. Thaw food in the refrigerator or cook from the frozen state. Cooking frozen meat or poultry will take approximately 50% longer than the recommended time for fully thawed or fresh meat and poultry. Don’t partially cook meat and poultry ahead of time. That can be risky. It’s safest to cook meat and poultry to a safe internal temperature at the picnic.
For a worry-free picnic, place perishable foods, such as hot dogs, burgers, poultry, deviled eggs, and macaroni or potato salads in a well-insulated cooler with plenty of ice or freezer gel packs. They need to be kept cold.
When you arrive at the picnic site, the first task is to wash your hands before preparing food. If running water is not available, use disposable wet wipes or hand sanitizer to clean your hands before and after touching food.
Don’t leave foods out in the sun. At the picnic, keep the cooler in the shade. Serve food quickly from the cooler and return it fast. In hot weather, above 90F, food shouldn’t sit out of the cooler over an hour.
Cook meat and poultry to a safe temperature as measured with a food thermometer. Just because a hamburger looks done on the outside doesn’t mean it is done on the inside. Use your food thermometer to be sure!
Serve food items from the grill on a clean platter. Don’t use the same plate and utensils for cooked food that were used for the raw food. Use a clean plate and utensil set for cooked food.
Don’t forget to unpack that cooler as soon as you return home. Refrigerate leftover meats and salads which have stayed cold; discard if they have become warm.