Cooking out is one of our favorite parts of summer, but you’ve got to keep an extra-close eye on food safety. We’ve got three ways to help keep our ZENB fam safe all season long!
One of the best parts of the summer is gathering with friends for outdoor barbecues with kids (or fur babies) running around, plenty of cold drinks, and a table spread with delicious grilled fare. Maybe it’s the ample sunshine, or the nostalgic smell of charcoal smoke, but a cookout just hits different than indoor dinner parties.
There is something to keep in mind, though, is outdoor food safety. One potential downside to these long, lazy outdoor hangs is that there can be a higher risk of food contamination or spoilage. There’s no cause for alarm, so long as you know a few food safety basics, so many of which are common sense!
Here are a few summer food safety tips to review, because we want to make sure that our ZENB fam enjoys wonderful gatherings all season long:
First off, you must always be careful when cooking with live fire. Review your grill’s instruction manual if it’s been a minute, and make sure you’ve got heat-proof gloves, a heavy duty apron, and a fire extinguisher nearby. Always keep small children away from the grill!
When you’re done grilling, be sure to let the coal ash cool completely before properly disposing of them. Ashes from lump charcoal, which is made from wood, can go into the compost. Charcoal briquettes, which usually have some chemicals added, should be wrapped in aluminum foil, or in a sealed container (like a coffee tin), before going into the trash. Alternately, if you’re using a gas grill, allow the grates to cool completely before covering the grill.
Second, it’s important to be extra-mindful of potential cross-contamination between raw foods, especially raw meats and vegetables. Unlike preparing a meal inside, where food preparation usually happens all at once, these ingredients can sometimes be sitting out or waiting to go on the grill for a while.
You always want to keep meats, especially poultry and seafood, chilling in the fridge right up until you’re ready to grill them. If that’s not possible for some reason (say, if you’re grilling in a park), keep these proteins stored at 40°F or below in an insulated cooler.
When it comes to cooking, be sure to wash your hands between handling raw meats and any other foods, and use dedicated tools, like marinade brushes or tongs, for different ingredients. Do not allow them to share surfaces, like cutting boards or bowls! If you’ve used marinade on raw meat, it needs to get thrown out and should not be re-used on other ingredients.
To also ensure maximum safety, always cook meat to the proper temperatures:
- Whole cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and veal: 145°F, then allow the meat to rest for at least 3 minutes.
- Fish: 145°F
- Hamburgers and other ground beef: 160°F
- Chicken, other poultry, hot dogs, and other pre-cooked meats: 165°F
Food Sitting Out
Perhaps you’re lingering over a lovely, refreshing drink and a conversation about how great music sounds on vinyl, and you may not be ready to eat right away. That’s ok! You’ve got a little time, as long as you follow these tips:
- After food is safely cooked, hot food must be kept hot at 140° F or warmer to prevent bacterial growth. When serving food at a buffet, keep food hot in chafing dishes, slow cookers, or warming trays.
- Within 2 hours of cooking food or after it is removed from an appliance keeping it warm, leftovers must be refrigerated. Throw away all perishable foods that have been left at room temperature for more than 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature is over 90° F, such as at an outdoor picnic during summer).
- Cold perishable food, such as chicken salad or a platter of deli meats, should be kept at 40° F or below. Keep food cold by nesting dishes in bowls of ice or use small serving trays and replace them often.
- Discard any cold leftovers that have been left out for more than 2 hours at room temperature (1 hour when the temperature is above 90 °F).
Setting a timer on your phone or smartwatch is a helpful way to stay on top of this!
We’re wishing our ZENB community an amazing, fun, and safe summer, with lots of time with friends and family under the sun. For fresh, seasonal meals, check out the ZENB recipe collection, and for more kitchen inspiration and advice for living a balanced life, follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.