Summertime Cookout Crash Course

For most Americans, summer means packing up the cooler and firing up the grill for picnics and barbeques. Accordingto the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), it also can be prime time for cross contamination  and food-borne illnesses. Plastic containers, wraps and bags can help keep your cookouts contaminant free.

Hot off the grill and just in time for summer…here are five quick tips to help you make every outdoor dining experience safe and enjoyable:

  1. Defrost food thoroughly – Completely defrost meat, fish and poultry before grilling so that it cooks more evenly. Use the refrigerator for slow, even thawing or thaw food sealed in plastic bags and containers in cold water.  You also can defrost food in the microwave in plastic wraps or bags labeled for freezer and microwave use. 

  2. Pack your cooler properly – Use an insulated cooler that is the right size for the amount of food and pack it with ice or freezer packs.  The cooler should be kept at or below 40°F.  To keep ice from melting onto other contents, pack it in sealable plastic bags.  When you are finished eating, the bags can be used for trash or leftovers.

  3. Wrap your food safely – Before you put raw meat, fish and poultry in your cooler, separate them in tightly sealed plastic containers or zippered plastic bags.  Never put raw and cooked foods of any kind together.  Instead of using one big, heavy cooler for everything, use several small coolers and designate one for raw meats.

  4. Sanitize!! – Clean hands are important!   If you are not near running water, you can use an antibacterial cleanser or wipe. 

  5. Love your leftovers – Don't waste food by letting it sit out for more than two hours.  Store leftovers in the cooler immediately after eating.  Bring extra plastic storage containers to help keep leftovers fresh and safe, and remember to reheat leftovers in containers that are labeled for use in the microwave. 

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