There is over a month of summer left, which means lots of grilling and picnics still too come. However, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), summer is prime time for cross contamination and food-borne illnesses. It is never too late in the season though to incorporate useful tips that can help keep your family and friends stay safe.
Defrost Food Thoroughly
Completely defrost meat, fish and poultry before grilling so that it cooks more evenly. Use the refrigerator for slow, even thawing or thaw food sealed in plastic bags and containers in cold water. You also can defrost food in the microwave in plastic wraps or bags labeled for freezer and microwave use.
Pack Your Cooler Properly
Use an insulated cooler that is the right size for the amount of food and pack it with ice or freezer packs. The cooler should be kept at or below 40°F. To keep ice from melting onto other contents, pack it in sealable plastic bags. When you are finished eating, the bags can be used for trash or leftovers.
Wrap Your Food Safely
Before you put raw meat, fish and poultry in your cooler, separate them in tightly sealed plastic containers or zippered plastic bags. Never put raw and cooked foods of any kind together. Instead of using one big, heavy cooler for everything, use several small coolers and designate one for raw meats.
Love Your Leftovers
Don’t waste food by letting it sit out for more than two hours. Store leftovers in the cooler immediately after eating. Bring extra plastic storage containers to help keep leftovers fresh and safe, and remember to reheat leftovers in containers that are labeled for use in the microwave. (ACC Packaging & Consumer Products microsite – Link)
Prep In Advance
Wash, chop, measure and prepare your ingredients 1-2 days before an event or party. They can be stored in re-sealable plastic bags or airtight containers in the refrigerator to make putting together recipes much easier the day of the party. (Holly Clegg – Simple Summer Solutions, 2010)
Save plastic grocery bags to send guests home with leftovers. Placing an empty plastic grocery bag in a picnic basket is also a great solution for collecting trash after a picnic in the park – it doesn’t take up much room and will act as a waterproof barrier to prevent spills. (Holly Clegg – Simple Summer Solutions, 2010)
Go for a Dip
Create a dipping station for barbeque and grill sauces using reusable plastic storage containers with lids. Guests can spoon sauces onto their plates; when the party is over, simply place the lids back on the sauces and store in the refrigerator. They come in all different shapes and sizes and even fun colors. (Holly Clegg – Simple Summer Solutions, 2010)
A Tasty Tip
Use re-sealable plastic bags for marinades. Put meat in the bags with marinade and refrigerate overnight. It helps save space in the refrigerator and clean up is easy. This also works for coating and breading. (Holly Clegg – Simple Summer Solutions, 2010)
For picnics on damp ground, placing an inexpensive plastic tablecloth under a blanket helps keep dampness from reaching picnickers – and keeps your blanket cleaner, too. (Holly Clegg – Simple Summer Solutions, 2010)