It's the season of picnics and grill-outs, but could you be putting yourself and others at risk without even knowing it? Before you even leave the house there is a method to the barbecuing madness. Your cooler packing should start with your meats and anything raw, nestled at the bottom of the pile.
"If it was sitting on top of everything it would be drooling it could probably even come through this plastic even though it's a freezer bag and if it comes through there and the meat juices get on any of the food then you're contaminated. So you want to put your raw (meat) absolutely on the bottom." Said Chef Rick Tobin of the Avera Heart Hospital.
Bacteria can grow at any temperature above freezing, so until it goes in your mouth or the grill your food has to stay cool.
"So the next thing you put in is the mayo-based salads whether they're pre-made or not there's a lot of mayo going on and that's an egg product which when it gets warm you're talking about trouble." Said Chef Tobin.
This second layer would also include things like your ranch dip or other dairy based dips. These items don't last long once they're on the table, so be sure they're put away once dinner's over.
The next layer in your cooler will be your fruits and vegetables. They'll be on the top, that way they stay cool but don't freeze. It's also a good idea to wrap them as well.
"Even if you have a lime, lemon, apple, orange, or whatever; I would say go ahead and wrap them and put them in here because things just bleed a little bit." Said Chef Tobin.
For that same reason you should think twice about putting your drinks in the same cooler.
"So you're not in here digging out a pop because that's going right into your mouth or if you grab a soda, or juice, or waters and then you add some meat juice in here or something and no thank you!" Said Chef Tobin.
With your cooler properly packed, it's on to the grill.
"One thing you should do is make sure it's clean but wait until it warms up a little bit because you don't want to put your food on something cold." Said Chef Tobin.
The main idea is to prevent contamination, that means having enough utensils and plates to keep things separate and sanitary.
"When grilling you don't want your raw chicken to be right there with your hamburgers either and you don't want to use the same tongs on both those instruments either." Said Chef Tobin.
An open flame is bacteria's worst nightmare but you still have to cook meat thoroughly. Some grills have cooking temps printed directly on them, for those that don't it's a list well worth having.
For starters, chicken and pork should be at least 165 degrees. A medium rare steak should be 145.
"This is another thing you probably should think about getting for home use, I mean these are only a couple bucks but it's an instant read thermometer there's a little dot on there so you got to get that part into the meat." Said Chef Tobin.
Statistics say you are more likely to get food poisoning than you are the flu. So when planning your next picnic remember to pack properly, keep it cool, and then get it hot!
Just like any situation where fire or an open flame is involved it's best to have a fire extinguisher near by so your little accident doesn't spread further. For more information just call 877-AT-AVERA.