As Texans, we all know that grilling and chilling are essential activities during a hot Texas summer. Who doesn’t love eating a delicious steak or burger fresh off the grill at a summer picnic? When cooking on the grill, it’s important to keep food safety in mind to prevent food poisoning from spoiling your fun. This summer, we teamed up with the USDA to provide you with our top food safety tips to keep your cookout fun and healthy.
Before preparing or handling food, it is always important to wash your hands to prevent food poisoning or food borne illness. Proper hand washing is especially important after handling raw meat, such as ground beef. You don’t want to transfer any germs around the kitchen! So, how long do you need to wash your hands? Wet and scrub hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and dry hands off with a clean towel to prevent the spread of germs.
Keep things Cool and Separate
Summer in Texas is all about getting outside and grilling. During a hot Texas summer, it’s especially important to keep perishable foods cool while enjoying a summer picnic to prevent food borne illness (bacteria can grow rapidly on food between 40 and 140°F or “the temperature danger zone” ). Use a cooler to keep food cool and make sure it is stocked with frozen gel ice packs. It is also important to keep perishable food in a separate cooler than beverages, because the beverage cooler may be opened frequently causing temperatures to fluctuate. When outdoors, keep the cooler with perishable items nice and cold by placing it in the shade.
Use a Thermometer
Who doesn’t love a perfectly cooked steak? Place a thermometer in the thickest part of the steak to make sure that your steak reaches an internal temperature of at least 145°F (medium-rare) for food safety and the best eating experience. Then, let your steak rest for 3 minutes before slicing. For ground meats, such as burgers and hot dogs, the USDA recommends cooking them to a minimum internal temperature of 160°F.
Keep Hot Foods Hot
After cooking meat such as beef, it is important to keep it warm at or above 140°F (outside of the temperature danger zone) until ready to serve. You can do this by setting them on the side of a grill rack (not directly over coals), in an oven set at 200°F, in a slow cooker or chafing dish.
Let it Chill
Saving leftovers from your cookout? Leftovers should be chilled within 2 hours after cooking to keep food safe. However, if the temperature outside is 90°F or warmer, don’t let leftovers sit out for more than an hour before chilling.