Summertime is BBQ time! It's a time to dust off our grills and buy the meats, poultry, fish, and vegetables we love and invite the gang over for tasty, but tempting meals. Barbecuing also means being careful and learning how to avoid food poisoning. Here are four tips for a bacteria-free BBQ.
1. Understand Food Cross-Contamination
Even the little ones love a hot dog or burger, but to avoid food poisoning and the need for pediatric urgent care, or adult medical care, don't cross-contaminate food. This simply means not allowing the raw juices of foods, such as meats, to come in contact with other foods.
Uncooked meat and fish are full of juices, but if these juices contact other foods like a hotdog, vegetables or fall into a salad, they can spread bacteria and cause food poisoning. Avoid the chances of raw juices mixing with other foods by using separate cooking plates and cleaning plates and utensils before reuse.
2. Don't Leave Foods Out in the Heat
Salads made with mayonnaise or other dairy products don't last long in the sun. Women's Health.com says a good rule of thumb is to "Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold."
That means leaving hot food on the grill or in warming dish until it's served. Likewise, cold foods like potato salads, deviled eggs, and macaroni salads should be kept fresh and clear of bacteria by using ice blocks inside coolers or large tubs.
3. Cook Foods Thoroughly
You might want a medium-rare burger, but it's best to cook foods thoroughly to avoid food poisoning. If you're the chef, use a cooking thermometer and test meats, poultry and fish before serving and keep these temperatures in mind:
- Don't serve poultry until the thermostat reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit
- Ground meat for burgers should reach 160 degrees Fahrenheit
- Steaks and other chops need to reach 145 degrees Fahrenheit
- Fish should be cooked until 140 degrees Fahrenheit
Chefs shouldn't add veggies or other elements to meats, poultry or fish until they are fully cooked. If you're not the chef and receive something uncooked, do ask the chef to cook it a bit longer.
4. Clean, Clean, Clean!
Food poisoning causes stomach or intestinal cramps, vomiting, nausea and fever. If you want to steer clear of these nasty symptoms, keep everything clean when preparing and cooking food.
This means fully cleaning the BBQ smoker, gas grill or charcoal grill. We often leave cooking utensils and wire brushes outside after grilling but these should also be cleaned before starting your summertime BBQ.
Washing your hands is essential when preparing raw foods. Never prepare raw chicken and then make a salad. Wash hands in between food prep and cooking.
If you're taking uncooked food to a family barbecue, make sure all meats, fish, poultry, and veggies are in separate containers or food storage bags. If it's a long drive to your event, put containers and storage bags inside a cooler with ice to prevent them from spoiling.
No one wants to endure food poisoning but with care, cleanliness, and the proper storage, family BBQs will always be fun.