Whether it's spending the day at the lake, by the pool or in the backyard, Americans love a good July 4th celebration. And you can bet there will be plenty of food shared by families and friends!
It's never a bad idea to review food safety tips especially if you're going to be cooking and serving food outside.
A little planning and the right tools should will help make sure no one ends up with a bellyache or worse, food poisoning.
Here are the basics in a nutshell:
Keep everything clean. That includes your hands, knives, cutting boards, eating utensils and preparing and cooking surfaces.
Soap and water is the best method of cleaning but may not be convenient. Use prepackaged sanitizing towels or make up a small bucket of diluted bleach solution (2 oz. bleach to 1 gallon water) to use when wiping up spills or cleaning surfaces.
Make sure your hands are clean. Use soap and water to scrub hands for at least 20 seconds. If washing your hands often isn't practical, keep hand sanitizer close by and use it each time you handle raw meat, poultry or fish.
Avoid cross contamination. Separate meat, poultry and fish. Package raw items in plastic bags or sealed containers so that spilled juices don't contaminate other foods.
Never put cooked meat back on the same soiled plate used to transport it while it was raw. Use a clean serving dish for food taken from the grill.
Use separate cutting boards and knives to steer clear of cross contamination. Pork and beef may be cut on the same surface, another for chicken and one more for fish. Using pre-sliced breads, cheese or vegetables to eliminate the need for additional knives and boards.
Make sure foods are thawed correctly. The best method to fend off bacteria is to thaw food in the refrigerator. Make certain that juices from thawing food do not drip into other items. Some food may be defrosted in the microwave or under running cold water. Never thaw food at room temperature, except breads or desserts that are recommended to defrost at room temperature.
Use a thermometer. Make sure your food is cooked thoroughly to kill bacteria that can make someone sick. Use a probe thermometer to check the internal temperature of grilled meat or chicken for doneness. Beef, lamb or veal should be no less than 145º F for medium rare. Chicken or turkey pieces are done at 170ºF and 180ºF for duck. Most prepared foods should reach 165ºF to be safe. Cook in small batches and serve immediately.
Food that is ready to eat needs to be kept hot or cold, as appropriate for each dish. Hold cold food at less than 40ºF and hot food above 140ºF. Any temperature between 40ºF and 140ºF is in the danger zone, ideal for bacteria growth.
If in doubt – don't eat it. Condiments such as ketchup, mustard and pickles do not require careful temperature monitoring during use but should be refrigerated to extend the product life. Bread, rolls and cakes usually are okay at room temperature at any time. If something doesn't smell or look right to you or you think it may have been sitting out too long – toss it. It's much better to be safe than sorry.
These food tips are applicable any day of the year, but it's easy to get in a rush when there are lots of people ready to chow down. Take your time, plan ahead and remember to have a wonderful and safe July 4th!