The weather is great! Just perfect for a picnic! Whether in the park, on the beach or even in your own front yard, a fun day in the open outdoors is sure to have lots of one thing – good food!
So as you get ready to pack up the picnic basket, head out and fire up the grill, remember one very important thing: make sure you pack your food with safety in mind. The summer heat can quickly spoil a picnic, so proper handling, storage, cooking and serving is very important. This is why it is absolutely essential that you take extra care when:
Stacking your basket
- Keep cold food cold: Make sure you have enough coolers with ice or frozen packs to store perishable foods like meat, chicken, fish, eggs and salads as well as mayonnaise-based snacks. And remember to pack foods right from the refrigerator into the coolers.
- And hot food hot: Wrap hot food in towels, then a newspaper and place it inside a box or heavy paper bag
- Don’t keep your cooler in your car trunk: Instead, carry it inside your air-conditioned car. At picnics, keep the cooler in the shade with the lid closed, and replenish ice when it melts.
- Two are better that one: Use a separate cooler for drinks so the one containing the food won't constantly be opened and then closed.
- Keep your fun clean! Find out if there's a source of safe drinking water at your destination. If not, take water for preparation and cleaning; or pack clean moist towelettes and paper towels for cleansing hands and surfaces to prevent the spread of microbes.
- Pack extra plates: This is especially important, because proper washing might be difficult at a picnic. The perfect solution is to pack extra plates and utensils or better still, consider using disposable plates.
- Avoid mixing raw and cooked food: Pack raw meats, chicken, or seafood at the bottom of the cooler. This will reduce the risk of them dripping on other foods. Pack coolers until they are full. A full cooler will stay cold longer than one that is partially full.
Preparing your picnic treats
- Grill completely: Do not partially grill extra meat or chicken to use later. Once you begin, cook until completely done to assure bacteria is destroyed. Grill raw chicken until the juices run clear and there is no pink. Hamburgers should not be pink in the centre. Cooking to proper internal temperatures not only helps ensure the taste of your grilled dishes, but also guarantees safety.
- Never re-use meat marinades or put the cooked meat in the original meat and marinade container.
Serving it up for a sunny day out
- Serve cool! Do not let cold foods sit out for more than one hour while serving. Any leftovers should be put back in the cooler right after they are served. The longer foods are held at unsafe temperatures the more likely it is that bacteria can grow and cause food borne illnesses.
- Serve hot! Cooked foods are just as perishable as raw foods which is why once foods are grilled, do not let them sit out for more than one hour. Plan preparation so food is eaten shortly after it is cooked.
- Stay insect alert! Keep foods covered to prevent contamination by insects. Many insects can carry harmful bacteria and viruses.
Good to know:In hot weather of 32 degrees Celsius or more, it’s important to remember the one-hour rule: perishable foods should not be left out of the refrigerator for longer than one hour. Usually foods can stay out for two hours but in hot temperatures you should know that this time is reduced to just one hour.
Handling Picnic Leftovers
- Because most picnic leftovers would have been sitting out for more than one hour and have had many people handling them, it is best to throw them out. The more time that food has been sitting at unsafe temperature, the more likely harmful bacteria has grown.
- Cold foods kept in a cooler that still has ice may be safe. If the ice has melted, throw out the food. Cold water cannot keep foods cold enough to be safe.
Enjoying good food and fun family and friend get-together's is a wonderful experience! But it is equally important to be environment friendly and not leave any litter or waste behind. This way you and others can enjoy a healthy and clean environment whenever you decide to picnic!