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Picnic Food Safety

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June 29, 2016 No comments

Outdoor Picnics - Keep Your Food Covered And At The Right Temperature

An outdoor Fourth of July picnic can be quite difficult to plan and safely execute thanks to weather, bugs, and the heat index! Planning ahead and having the right food equipment will help to make for a smooth, fun picnic experience for all.

One of the main concerns is bacteria, which multiply faster in hot, humid weather and can lead to food poisoning. Generally, potato salad is fingered as the main culprit, but the reality is, it's not just about keeping your cold food cold, it's also about keeping your hot food hot, as well as preventing any cross contamination between your raw meats and seafood.

Keeping food at proper temperatures - indoor and out - is critical in preventing the growth of food-borne bacteria. The key is to never let your picnic food remain in the "Danger Zone" - between 40°F and 140°F.
In other words, your cold products need to be kept below 40 degrees throughout the picnic, and your hot items need to be kept above 140 degrees!

One of the products you can use to store food safely is Chafers. Chafers with gel fuel can keep your extra ribs, meats, and seafood warm on the grill. The same goes for any hot casseroles on your table. The great thing about Chafers is that there is now a large selection, ranging from disposable wire Chafers to polished stainless steel, that will brighten any table. If you entertain quite a bit, an attractive Chafer is a solid investment. Make certain you have a meat thermometer to guarantee you are keeping your meat above 140 degrees. If you can’t keep it at this temperature, then throw out the food after two hours, or after one hour if the outside temperature is above 90 degrees.

Keeping your cold foods cold is much easier today than it was a few years ago. Of course, you can always go traditional - ice and plenty of it. I've seen old iron bath tubs filled with ice for a country theme, and a kiddie wading pool filled with ice always works for a casual event. Make certain you keep refreshing the ice though if you decide to go this route.

Another alternative is insulated serving bowls and cold-fest pans, or pan chillers that you freeze before placing your cold food products in them. The difference is that with a chiller, you place whatever food pan you have inside it, and with the bowls and cold-fest pans, you freeze and put your food directly inside the pans. Again, if you entertain quite a bit, any of these would be good investment. If your parties are often potlucks, the chillers work the best, as you can place your friends food pans inside the chiller. Again, use a thermometer to check your food during serving times. Make certain it does not ever rise above 40 degrees. If it does, throw out the food after two hours, or after 1 hour if the outdoor temperature is above 90 degrees.

Keep your picnic food covered! It will help to keep your food at proper temperature and keep bugs out. The go-to option is foil, but another choice that works well and allows your guests to see the food is a clear display dome lid that you place over the food dishes! They are affordable and your guests will love being able to see what food is being offered.

Keeping your food covered can also help prevent cross contamination, which is another cause of food poisoning. Make certain the plate or platter used for your raw meat or seafood is placed directly into your sink for washing. You never want to put your cooked meat onto the same platter. If you use utensils for handling raw meat, the same thing applies. Immediately put them in the sink and pull your meat off with different utensils. And if you place the raw meat on the grill using your hands, immediately go wash them.


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