The summer is in full swing here in New England and as we enter the last hot month of the season vacations, last-minute picnics and grilling out on the deck are likely to top everyone’s agenda at some point. If there’s one thing better than going for a refreshing dip in the summer, it’s the wonderful array of tasty foods that you can eat. From in-season fruits and vegetables to ice creams and grilled meat – there’s something for everyone to love about summer food.
There’s also an increased opportunity for bacteria and other issues to arise in high outdoor temperatures. Here are some tips for staying healthy while you enjoy eating al fresco.
Keep Food Prep and Meal Serving Areas Clean
Chance are if you’re cooking outdoors then you’ve likely also taken food with you to be cooked. If this includes raw meats, fishes and other animal products, be sure to keep them stored separately from vegetables and other food items. Cross-contamination with raw meats can breed the spread of salmonella E.coli and other diseases. Be sure to thoroughly wash all surfaces, utensils and your hands. Never ever re-use items that have come in contact with raw matter. If you have room, keep the preparation areas and serving areas separate as an extra precaution.
Cook Foods Thoroughly
Since grilling is one of the most popular ways to cook food in the summer months, it’s important to understand proper grilling techniques. Heating food over a fire can be misleading. While meat can appear well done and cooked because the outer layer is starting to char, it’s the internal temperature that matters. All meats have different internal temperature requirements to be considered safe for consumption. Be sure to get familiar with these temperatures and bring a thermometer along to be extra sure you’re serving guests foods they won’t get sick over.
Safe Internal Temperatures when Cooking Meat:
- BEEF – 145° F
- CHICKEN – 165° F
- PORK – 145° F
- LAMB – 145° F
Keep a Cooler and Ice on Hand
Taking food along for a summer outing is a great way to picnic and enjoy the day with friends, but you want to be sure the food remains in good condition throughout the day. The only way to do this is to pack a cooler with ice that will keep it as fresh as possible. According to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, “foodborne illnesses tend to increase during the summer months because bacteria multiply faster when it’s warm.” In addition to taking along a thermometer to ensure the meats you cook are sufficiently prepared, you should also monitor the temperature at which your food is being stored. If you notice ice melting quickly add more to maintain proper chill.