By Diana Rattray, About.com
Picnics, barbecues, and potlucks are wonderful ways to celebrate Spring and Summer holidays, but whatever your plans, take care to prepare and transport food safely. Whether your picnic is an elaborate affair for a few dozen friends and relatives or a simple cook-out for a few, a little planning will help prevent food borne illnesses so common during the summer months.
Bacteria begin to multiply between 40°F and 140°F, so it's important to keep it either cold or hot right up to the moment of cooking and/or serving. To make cleanup easier, take garbage bags, paper towels and damp washcloths in plastic bags.
The following safety tips have been gleaned from various Extension Service publications.
Have a safe and happy cookout season!
Make sure your cooler will keep foods at 40°F, or plan foods that are less perishable, such as luncheon meats, cheese, peanut butter, etc.. Keep drinks in a separate cooler, since it will be opened more often.
Plan ahead; try to take only what will be eaten so you won't have to worry about leftovers.
Don't partially precook meat or poultry before transporting; if it must be precooked, cook until done then chill before packing in the cooler.
Pack condiments in small containers rather than taking whole jars.
Put the cooler in the inside of the car rather than the hot trunk, and keep it in the shade at your destination; replenish ice often.
If you cook food ahead of time, chill thoroughly before putting it in the cooler. If you take hot food, wrap the dish in aluminum foil and towels to keep it above 140°F; if it's a long trip it may be best not to take a hot dish.
Take-out foods like fried chicken or barbecue should be eaten within 2 hours of purchase or thoroughly chilled before adding to the cooler and transporting.
Be sure all utensils, plates, and cooking surfaces are clean, and your hands are washed well before handling food.
Take only as much food out of the cooler as you're going to cook right then.
When meat is cooked, transfer to a clean plate or platter - never place cooked meat on a platter which held raw meat.
The USDA recommends fully cooking meats to ensure bacteria is destroyed. To be sure bacteria are destroyed, hamburgers and ribs should be cooked to 160° F or until the center is no longer pink and juices are clear. Cook ground poultry to 165° F and poultry parts to 180° F. Reheat pre-cooked meats until steaming hot.
Never reuse marinades that have come in contact with raw meat, chicken or fish, and don't put the cooked food back into an unwashed container or the dish that contained the marinade.
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