Growing up, nothing made summer feel quite like summer until the annual family BBQ. Family was used loosely as friends, family, and neighbors would gather at the local park pavilion for a game of softball, playground shenanigans, and, of course, to feast on hot dogs, hamburgers, slaw, and potato salad. But how many picnic-goers know how to keep their outdoor meals safe from pathogens and foodborne illnesses? Goliath Consulting Group’s Serve Safe trainer and head chef (also an avid picnic aficionado) Britt Cloud wants to help you and yours keep their summer free of unwanted outdoor dining mishaps.
Let’s talk about TCS foods. Dangerous pathogens exist in foods that require Time and Temperature Controls for Safety (TCS). Picnic staples like potato salad, sliced melons, leafy greens, meats, fish, and shellfish are all susceptible to invasive bacteria that can ruin any outdoor meal. It is important to remember when foods stay in the temperature danger zone (41ᵒF-135ᵒF) for a prolonged amount of time, these pathogens are provided with the perfect environment to thrive. To prevent the growth of these dangerous pathogens, keep cold foods chilled to less than 41ᵒ until you are ready to serve and dispose of them within six hours. Hot foods must be maintained at above 135ᵒ and thrown out after just four hours.
Temperature storage is not the only time your food is at risk, the food prep process at your home kitchen is equally important. When cooling cooked foods, remember that foods must go from 135ᵒF to 70ᵒF in two hours and finish cooling from 70ᵒF to 41ᵒF within four hours. All fruits and vegetables need to be properly washed prior to cutting or slicing and all raw meats must remain in the cooler until you are ready to toss them on the old charcoal grill. When loading your coolers, try to keep raw meats separated from cooked food (and those fruits and vegetables meant to be consumed raw). Chef Britt also reminds us it is never safe to store raw meats on top of ready to eat food items.
A few more safety guidelines to remember:
• Always thoroughly wash your hands before handling ready to eat food items, especially after handling raw meats
• Separate cutting surfaces must be used when slicing raw and ready to eat items
• Do not allow food to sit in the sun for more than one hour (90ᵒF temperatures can bring your cuisine into the danger zone faster than most realize!)
Following Chef Britt’s safety advice will help you and your crew enjoy a smooth, successful summer picnic.