Team Up to Tackle Food Safety
By Diane Van, Manager, USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline
It’s tailgate season — are you ready for the kick off? Planning is the key to keeping your food safe during a tailgate, so get your gear ready now. Do you have enough coolers and all the tools you need to cook? In addition to a grill and fuel for cooking make sure you don’t forget your most valuable player, the food thermometer. It’s the only way you can be sure your meat or poultry has reached a safe temperature.
Don’t sideline your guests—Stay in the Food Safety Zone
- Bring water for cleaning if none will be available at the site. Pack clean, wet, disposable cloths or moist towelettes and paper towels for cleaning hands and surfaces.
- Carry cold perishable food like raw hamburger patties, sausages, and chicken in an insulated cooler packed with several inches of ice, frozen gel packs, or containers of ice.
- Be sure raw meat and poultry are wrapped securely to prevent their juices from cross-contaminating ready-to-eat food. If possible, store these foods near the bottom of the cooler, so that juices don't contaminate other foods in the cooler.
- If you can't keep hot food hot during the drive to your tailgate, plan and chill the food in the refrigerator before packing it in a cooler. Reheat the food to 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer.
- If bringing hot take-out food, eat it within 2 hours of purchase (1 hour if the temperature is above 90 °F).
Know your opponent—Defend against bacteria
To defeat bacteria, use a food thermometer! Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often browns very fast on the outside. the only way to be sure that the food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature is to use a food thermometer.
Using a food thermometer not only keeps your guests safe from harmful food bacteria, but it also helps you to avoid overcooking, giving you safe and flavorful meat. Different meats have different minimum cooking temperatures, so check the Minimum Cooking Temperatures chart to be sure.
Follow the game plan for a winning tailgate
When you plan your party, use this checklist to pack your gear:
- Clean: Soap, water (if none is available at the site), wet disposable cloths or moist toilettes, hand sanitizer
- Separate: Separate plates and utensils for raw meats and cooked meats
- Cook: Grill, fuel, cooking utensils, food thermometer, Minimum Cooking Temperatures chart
- Chill: Coolers, ice or frozen gel packs, clean containers for storing leftovers
For more information about keeping bacteria away on the big game day, check out these resources:
If you have any questions about tailgating food safety, feel free to contact us at the Hotline (1-888-674-6854 toll-free) or online at AskKaren.gov.