The Fourth of July is the perfect combination of food, sun and celebration. However, your celebration will lose lots of its festiveness if you leave your food in the sun too long! …We won’t get into the specifics of what happens to your G.I. after, but know that it’s not good.
Cooking and hosting parties is a traditional pastime of the 4th. However, it’s important to be careful with those traditional and tasty meat, cheese and mayo–based dishes that can easily turn sour if you don’t keep them in the right conditions.
Millions of Americans contract some form of food poisoning even year, totaling to 3,000 deaths in the most serious cases. To ensure you and your guests all have a happy Independence Day, we’ve compiled a list of tips to keep foodborne illness off the menu!
Start with good hygiene
We normally stress oral hygiene, and while that is important (and something we’ll get to in a minute), here we’re talking about good ol’ hand washing.
Before you start preparing food, wash your hands. This is the simplest way to stop the spread of pathogens around your kitchen. Use soap and warm water and lather for at least 20 seconds. Dry with a clean towel or paper towel. Always wash your hands immediately after you handle meat and poultry. You can’t wash your hands too much when preparing food!
Separate your meats
When shopping, pick up meat, poultry and seafood last, right before checkout. Separate them from other foods in your shopping cart and grocery bags. To guard against cross-contamination, put packages of raw meat and poultry into individual plastic bags.
And after you get home, keep meat, poultry, and seafood refrigerated until you’re ready to grill. When transporting meats, keep them below 40°F in an insulated cooler.
Every Texan has their own secret marinade. When you mix yours, it’s important to remember to leave the meat marinating in the refrigerator and not on the counter. If your special sauce is best applied after the meat is cooked, then make sure to keep it completely separate from the raw meat.
And finally, if you do marinades both before and after, never reuse marinade. Touching raw meat then putting it on cooked meat is the perfect recipe for food poisoning.
Cook food thoroughly
The Fourth of July is no time to serve beef tartar! To kill any harmful bacteria that may be present, use a food thermometer when grilling, baking and frying. Hamburgers should be cooked to 160°F. If a thermometer is not available, make sure hamburgers are brown all the way through, not pink. Chicken should be cooked to at least 165°F. If you partially cook food in the microwave, oven or stove to reduce grilling time, do so immediately before the food goes on the hot grill.
Keep prepared foods at the right temperatures
Potato salad is delicious, but often blamed for causing food-borne illness due to the mayonnaise and the eggs. The truth is, however, that mayonnaise does not cause illness—bacteria does! And bacteria just happen to love growing in many of the foods we combine with mayonnaise, like potatoes, pasta, eggs and chicken.
Although bacteria can grow in extreme conditions, too, they grow best between 40°F and 140°F, also known as the “temperature danger zone.” Keeping foods out of this zone will reduce the likelihood that bacteria are going to multiply on your food.
- Hot food should be kept at or above 140°F. It should also be wrapped well and placed in an insulated container.
- Cold food should be held at or below 40°F. Foods like chicken salad and desserts that are in individual serving dishes can be placed directly on ice or in a shallow container set in a deep pan filled with ice.
Keep your smile fresh!
In addition to keeping your food fresh, it’s important to keep your mouth fresh to avoid any foodborne issues. Since brushing your teeth not always the easiest thing to do at a barbecue, however, it’s important that you carry (or offer guests) alternatives.
First, make sure you have plenty of water. This not only helps with hydration but can be used to wash your mouth out and remove bad bacteria.
Next, leave toothpicks near the meat station to help get tough particles out from between your teeth.
And finally, consider offering people sugar-free gum. Not only will it leave you minty fresh, it will help prevent cavities!