Summer picnics, cookouts and garden-fresh produce are memory makers we all look forward to.
With this in mind, there are special reminders to consider to have a fun, safe and healthy summer.
Cooking outdoors and dinner at the park often include extra risks of food-borne illness ... definitely not something to celebrate.
The biggest risks are due to the lack of clean surfaces, facilities to wash hands and utensils and poor refrigeration facilities.
Unintended results may include cross-contamination, temperature abuse and improper cooking time or temperature.
With grilling, often the cooking method of choice with outdoor gatherings, it is important to be aware of both safe grilling components and food safety.
Some tips to consider for great grilling include:
* Always keep your grill clean,
* Use oil or cooking spray on your cooking grate when grilling low-fat meats and other foods.
Do not apply cooking spray to a lit grill,
* Always give yourself plenty of time. Always keep an eye on what you're grilling,
* Do not use spray bottles of water to control flare-ups.
Flare-ups are caused by too much fat or too much heat,
* Trim excess fat and when you turn the meat, move it to another location on the grill,
* Do not add sugary or oily sauces or marinades to meat on the grill. This will cause burning and charred meats,
* Keep your grill away from anything flammable like lighter fluid, fences, your house, vehicle, etc.,
* Spice up your food at least eight hours before grilling to allow the flavor to permeate the foods. Remember to keep refrigerated for food safety,
* Use proper grilling tools. Forks are great for eating, but tongs are much better for turning foods on the grill,
* Remember grilling safety. The leading cause of injury with gas grilling is leaking fuel lines.
Make sure hoses are connected properly, and in good condition, and there are no leaks. If you have a fire and it is safe to get to the control knobs, turn the grill off and turn off the gas supply. If it is out of control, get away from the grill and call the fire department.
Rules for safe food for outdoor gatherings: Food safety basics start with the Fight BAC rules: Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill.
* Clean. To prevent bacteria on your hands from getting in food, they should be washed with soap and warm water before handling food.
If the picnic area has no running water, bring soap and fresh water for a hand washing station for you and your guests.
Using the "clean" principle is just as important with outdoor cooking as it is inside. Hands should be washed after touching raw foods. Plates, containers and surfaces that have come in contact with raw meat and poultry should not be used for other foods, including cooked meat and poultry.
Meat thermometers should be cleaned and sanitized after each use,
* Separate. Keep raw meats and ready-to-eat foods separated. Cross-contamination can occur when the juices from raw meats drip onto other foods.
To prevent cross-contamination, store meats in their own plastic bags or container and away from other foods. Use separate utensils to handle raw and cooked meats as well as placing the cooked meats on a separate plate than the one that held the raw meat,
* Cook. Raw meats contain bacteria and should be cooked thoroughly to protect against food-borne illness.
Bring foods to proper cooking temperatures.
Reaching safe food temperatures is a necessary precaution to ensure that they are safe to eat.
A meat thermometer is the only reliable method for determining doneness, and
* Chill. One of the most obvious ways to prevent food-borne illness is to keep foods cold.
Do not thaw meat at room temperature or out in the sun. Cold foods need to be kept at refrigerator temperature, which is anywhere from just above freezing (32-degrees) to 41-degrees.
Food should not be in the temperature danger zone (41-degrees to 135-degrees) for more than two hours, which includes the time it takes to transport ingredients along with preparing, cooling and serving food.
After the meal, return the food to a cooler or discard if in doubt of the food's safety.
It is often common, but unsafe to eat food that has been left out all afternoon, especially dips or other dairy and egg products. When in doubt, throw it out.
Make sure the ice used to cool food is not also used for consumption in your drinks. Keep a separate bag or container for that purpose and dip with a cup or other utensil. Hands reaching for ice may not be clean.
A full cooler will maintain its cold temperature longer than one that is partially filled so it is important to pack plenty of extra ice or freezer packs to ensure a constant cold temperature.