Sunday, July 3, 2011

Food Smarts: Safe Grilling & Cookout Tips ...For Real

Happy July 4th to all of you! This summer has been gorgeous so far, although very hot!  I recently went to a combination cook out to celebrate a graduation, Father’s Day and a Family Reunion. It got me thinking about safe food handling tips for those of you enjoying picnics and
cookouts. 

As we always tell our students, food safety has to be practiced in every step in the flow of the food from purchasing through to serving. This applies to you at home or outdoors too! It does not matter the step you are dealing with the food, pathogens are happy to be in these hot temperatures. In general, bacteria double every 20 minutes in the Temperature Danger Zone (41°F-135°F), but from my research in the past, I understand that bacteria can replicate scarily fast in the most dangerous part of the Temperature Danger Zone, 70°F-125°F. That is why, it is imperative to not leave food out for more than four hours in the TDZ.  Although, the FDA states that we can leave foods in the Temperature Danger Zone for a maximum of four hours, I would recommend sincerely to be checking your food temperatures at least every two hours and consider discarding the food at two hours instead of waiting the allowable four hours in these extreme hot weather conditions.

Whether it is a professional kitchen, a home kitchen or cooking outdoors or at a catered event outdoors, we always have to avoid the three leading factors that contribute to foodborne illnesses.  No matter whether indoors or outdoors; we still have to: 

  • Control Time & Temperature
  • Avoid Cross Contamination
  • Practice Good Personal Hygiene

Here are our suggestions for Safe Outdoors Grilling & Serving Food:

1)   To control Time & Temperature:
  • Check food temperatures at the minimum every 4 hours if it’s being held.
  • Discard food at the minimum at 4 hours if the temperature is measuring inside the TDZ.
  • Use a thermometer! The food can be burnt on the outside but still raw in the middle.
  • Cook foods to the proper temperatures on the grill: 
    • 165°F - Poultry
    • 160°F - Ground Meats/Ground Fish & Marinated Meats/Marinated Fish
    • 145°F – Meats (any meat with no wings, i.e. beef, lamb, pork, veal) and fish … pork was recently lowered to the 145 degree standard
  • Keep Food on ice whenever possible or in a cooler.
  • Keep food under refrigeration until ready to grill.
  • Consider having the food displayed indoors for service to avoid being in higher temperatures outside.
  • While pulling out the pickle relish that you haven’t touched since last year, check the expiration date.

1)   To Avoid Cross Contamination:
·         Have clean hands! Wash your hands when dirty and before touching a new food.
·         Use color coded equipment. Besides color coded cutting boards, consider using color coded tongs. This can help you distinguish to use one set of tongs for raw food and another color coded set of tongs for the cooked food.
·         Don’t use the same plate to bring out the raw meats to serve the cooked meats.
·         Don’t use the same marinade to baste that you used to marinate meats and fish. Why not reserve a portion of your marinade separate, so you can use it to baste pre-marinated meats or seafood during the cooking process that has not been contaminated by raw meat juices in the marinating process? 
·         Don’t use the same ice that was used to keep food or drinks cold in your drinks.
·         One of my pet peeves at non-professional events: Don’t touch cake, lick your fingers … and keep serving with your hands!
·         Keep the food covered as much as possible. We don’t want flies leaving their business on our food. Use lids, plastic wrap/tin foil or consider purchasing the netted covers.

2)   Practice Proper Personal Hygiene:
·         Wash Your Hands.
·         Don’t drip your sweat on the food

We hope this information can serve as a mini-guide to safe cooking outdoors. And as we always say, “Stay Safe!” but please, just as importantly, remember to “Have Fun!” As per last month’s article, have a fire extinguisher handy if you are grilling outdoors!  Just in case. 

Juliet Bodinetz-Rich is the executive director of Bilingual Hospitality Training Solutions and has over 25 years industry and training experience. Her team of instructors’ specialty is food safety, alcohol training and ServSafe training in English or in Spanish and writing HACCP Plans in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. Metro Area. www.bilingualhospitality.com, juliet@bilingualhospitality.com or 443-838-7561. For Latest Food Safety Tips: Become a Fan on Facebook or Twitter: @BHTS

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