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Posted on: June 28, 2018

Grillin' and Chillin'

Pasta Dish

Well, summer has finally arrived in Jackson Hole.  This is the season for picnics, barbecues, cookouts, camping, and other outdoor activities that involves food.  Summer is short here and make the most of these warm sunny days.  Unfortunately, eating outdoors in warm weather presents a variety of food safety challenges.  Bacteria also likes warm temperatures, and they multiply faster between the temperatures of 40°F and 140°F.  All of the home food safety tips discussed previously (clean, separate, cook, chill) still applies, but we often don’t have the conveniences of good refrigeration, sinks for washing hands, stoves that heat evenly and keep foods hot, and over-head protection from things that may fall or blow into the foods we eat.  The following is a list if tips to keep outdoor food safe and prevent food-born illness.

  1. Before you go, plan ahead
  • Clean your produce.  Rinse fruits and vegetables under running tap water before packing them into a cooler.  Firm-skinned fruits and vegetables may be rubbed or scrubbed under running tap water.
  • Marinate safely.  Always marinate under refrigeration…not on the kitchen counter or outdoors.  Also, if you want to use some of the marinade as a sauce for cooked meat, make up some extra that will not come into contact with raw meat.  
  • Think about how you will know when your food is cooked to the proper temperatures or kept cool (below 40°F).  Having a good/ calibrated food thermometer is essential to keeping foods out of the “danger zone” of 40°F - 140°F.
  • If you will be keeping foods cold away from your home, make sure that you use an insulated cooler that has plenty of ice or frozen gel packs… enough for the amount of time that foods will need to be refrigerated (if you will not be able to purchase more ice).
  • Will there be clean (potable) water available?  If not, you will need to bring water for hand-washing, cooking, and other needs.  You may also want to find out in advance if grills, picnic tables, and trash receptacles will be available.

  1. Avoid cross-contamination.
  • Use separate cutting boards, platters, and utensils for raw and ready to eat foods (like breads, fruits, vegetables, etc.).
  • Organize cooler contents.  Make sure that raw animal foods are not in contact with ready to eat foods.  It might be helpful to pack separate coolers, one for meats and the other for perishable foods and drinks.  This will allow people to frequently open the drink cooler without affecting the temperature of perishable items (which will stay colder longer).  You can use frozen foods like meat, poultry, and seafood to help keep the cooler colder.  A full cooler will stay colder than a partially full cooler, and always keep the lids closed.
  • Remember to drain off water from the ice that has melted, and never re-use ice (used to keep other food cold) in a drink.
  • Clean the tops of cans and the can opener before opening to prevent contamination.

  1. Keep the hot foods hot and the cold foods cold.
  • Make sure that foods are cooked to minimum internal temperatures (See chart below) using your food thermometer.
  • Use the same thermometer to make sure cold food is staying below 40°F, but make sure you clean/sanitize the thermometer between uses.
  • Once cooked, keep these foods hot until served (above 140°F).  On a grill, you can move cooked foods away from direct heat or onto a grill rack to keep them at the right temperature without over-cooking.
  • Foods should not be kept between 40°F and 140°F (the “danger zone”) for more than 2 hours, or 1 hour if outdoor temperatures are above 90°F.
  • Never thaw food at room temperature or outside (food can be thawed under refrigeration, under cold running water, or in a microwave/ part of the cooking process).
  • Watch out for foreign objects in food (including bristles from a grill brush).
  • If there are any leftovers, make sure that the are cooled to below 40°F properly.  One way you can do this is dividing food into smaller or shallow containers to allow it to cool faster under refrigeration.

  1. Keep it clean.
  • Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food, using the bathroom, changing diapers, or handling pets.  Dry with disposable towel or a clean towel.
  • You might need to bring water, soap, paper towels for a hand-wash station.  Hand sanitizer is not a substitute for hand-washing, but it is better than nothing.
  • Clean and sanitize cutting boards, utensils, and food contact surfaces frequently.  Use a solution of bleach and water, mixed to a concentration of 50-100 parts per million (ppm).   Mixing the sanitizer (usually a bleach solution) in a spray bottle and having some disposable paper towels is a great way to keep the food prep/ cooking area clean.

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