We're in the thick of cookout season, and Independence Day is right around the corner. Between meal planning, shopping and cooking, there's a lot of room for careless mistakes with your food—from burnt burgers to warm soda to Aunt Meg's “famous” gelatin platter. But do you want one of those mistakes sending all of your guests to the toilet?
Food safety is always in the back of our minds but sometimes we slip up. Let's take a look at some of the ways you can keep bacteria off the menu this weekend. First off, we need to stop cross-contamination. Cross-contamination simply means food that harbors different types of bacteria, or food that finishes cooking at different temperatures has come into contact with each other. Ground beef touching raw chicken breasts, lettuce and pork, you get the idea. Cross-contamination is bad news because its consequences are unexpected. You might have cooked those burger patties to perfection, but if they shared a tray with chicken breasts then the burgers could harbor some unwanted visitors. Check out the USDA's recommendations for internal cooking temperatures, and pick up a meat thermometer to take out the guesswork. The USDA also says that 1 out of every 4 hamburgers turns brown before it's actually safe to eat, so don't just eyeball your patties this weekend.
Before cooking, store meat separately in your refrigerator. Food that needs to be cooked longer should be kept at the bottom, while raw food stays at the top. Frozen food needs to be completely defrosted before cooking—otherwise you run the risk of grilling it unevenly, leaving behind harmful bacteria. But the clock really starts ticking at the grocery store. Try to pick up meat and fish at the end of your shopping trip so they stay cold longer, and don't give germs a chance to grow on the car ride home. When your grill area is getting hectic, always remember to wipe down utensils that have come into contact with raw food. A few seconds flipping burgers with a dirty spatula (we've all done it) isn't long enough to burn off the bacteria. Last of all, don't let your heaps of tasty leftovers sit out all afternoon. At room temperature, food left sitting out for just 2 hours can grow dangerous levels of bacteria, and the same food left out on a sweltering summer day can go south in less than an hour. Don't chance it; pack your leftovers away in the refrigerator. It's a little bit more inconvenient to sneak in a second or third burger, but it won't make you sick.
Happy grilling from your friends at Kalfus & Nachman!!