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Summer Fun: Maintaining Food Safety During Picnic Season

Summer’s here and the outdoors are calling! With longer days and warmer weather, it’s prime time for gatherings. But before you head to the park with your picnic basket or fire up the backyard grill, brush up on these safety essentials to ensure a delicious and hazard-free feast. Luckily, with a few smart practices, you can still enjoy safe and delicious outdoor meals.

Summer picnic table with food spread

Beware of the Summer Sun

Outdoor cooking comes with its own set of hurdles unlike the controlled environment of a kitchen. Limited access to refrigeration, proper sinks and meat thermometers — coupled with warmer temperatures — creates an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, thus increasing the risk of foodborne illnesses. Some methods worth considering include: 

Avoiding Cross-Contamination

Don’t forget to double-check your plates! To prevent cross-contamination, avoid placing cooked food back on the same plate that held raw meat. Remember, summer heat can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Before reusing a plate, make sure to wash it thoroughly with hot, soapy water first, or always have clean plates and utensils to place the cooked food on. In the event you need to pack raw items (to prep elsewhere), it’s best to securely wrap those items and store them away from other foods. If necessary, pack in separate coolers. 


Marinating Proteins in the Fridge

When marinating meat, avoid doing so on the counter or outdoors. Marinate in a refrigerated environment. And if you plan to use some of the marinade as a sauce, set aside a portion before adding your meat or seafood. Similar to marinating, defrosting frozen meat should also occur in a refrigerator. Allot enough time for frozen items to thaw and cook once thawed. 


Checking Internal Temperatures

Don't forget to bring a meat thermometer! Cooking food to a safe minimum internal temperature is critical to prevent bacteria from multiplying. Keep in mind that partially cooking food ahead of time won't help save time. Par-cooking meat allows bacteria to survive and multiply to the point that subsequent cooking cannot destroy them. The USDA recommends cooking food to the following safe minimum internal temperatures:

  • Whole cuts of meat: 145° F with a 3-minute rest time

  • Fish: 145° F

  • Ground meats: 160° F

  • Egg dishes: 160° F

  • Poultry (ground or whole): 165° F


Keep it Cool

For ultimate chilling power, pack your cooler to the brim. A full cooler retains ice and keeps everything colder for longer compared to a partially filled one. Toss in plenty of extra ice or freezer packs to create a consistently frigid environment for your food and drinks. To maximize efficiency, consider using a separate cooler specifically for beverages. Since drinks are accessed more frequently, a dedicated cooler prevents people from constantly opening the main food cooler, which lets out precious cold air.  Remember to keep both coolers out of direct sunlight to minimize heat gain and melting.


Put simply: follow the two-hour rule. Avoid serving food that's been out of the refrigerator, off the stove or grill or out of the oven longer than two hours. (If it's over 90°F outside, that two-hour rule becomes a one-hour rule.) 

Wash your produce

Summer favorites like strawberries, nectarines, grapes, peaches, cherries, spinach, kale, and even tomatoes appear on the "Dirty Dozen" list, known for containing higher levels of pesticide residue. To be safe, give your fruits and veggies a good washing before enjoying them. Be mindful before peeling or cutting through unwashed produce. That way contaminants won’t transfer from your knife to the fruit or vegetable.

Food Prep and Presidio Home Care

From grocery shopping and meal prep to hydration reminders and more, Presidio Home Care Aides are here to support you every step of the way. Whether it’s ensuring proper food handling and storage, assisting with meal planning or offering gentle reminders for staying hydrated in the summer heat, Presidio Home Care Aides are dedicated to ensuring your well-being while you enjoy the delights of summer dining. Contact us today to learn more.

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