Summer presents a great opportunity to spend time with friends and family around the grill or at a picnic. Preparing and storing food for outdoor summer events requires special precautions to ensure that food is safe to eat.
Start off your meal right by always washing your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. It’s important to wash both before and after handling food to help avoid cross-contamination. Cross-contamination is when germs from one type of food, like raw chicken, get on another type of food, like veggies for salad. When taking food off the grill, use a clean plate. Do not put cooked food items back on the same plates that were used for raw food, unless they have been washed with hot water and soap first.
Another way to keep from cross-contaminating your food is to avoid re-using sauce that was used to marinate raw meat or poultry. If you want to re-use marinades as sauce for cooked food, be sure to boil it first, or set aside a portion of the unused marinade to use later as a sauce. Always marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter top.
Use a food thermometer to ensure that food on the grill reaches a safe internal temperature. Hamburgers should be cooked to 160 degrees, while large cuts of beef or pork, such as roasts, steaks, and chops may be cooked to 145 degrees for medium rare or to 160 degrees for medium. Poultry must reach a temperature of 165 degrees. Fish should be opaque and flake easily.
In hot weather above 90 degrees, like we have been experiencing here in Northern Nevada, perishable foods should never sit out for more than an hour before going back in the refrigerator or cooler. A full cooler will maintain its cold temperatures longer than one that is partially filled, so it is important to pack plenty of extra ice or freezer packs to ensure a constant cold temperature. Keep the cooler out of the direct sun. Store cold drinks in a separate cooler from foods that need to stay cold. The beverage cooler will be opened frequently while the food cooler stays cold. Also, this will keep drinks from coming in contact with raw foods.
Temporary event permits are required for any vendor preparing food at a special event. If you are unsure if a food vendor is operating legally, look for a posted Health Department permit.
For questions regarding temporary food permits, contact your local Health Department.