Posted: May 6, 2016

Summer is around the corner and that means outdoor barbecues and picnics. Richard Kralj, food safety and nutrition educator, gives some tips on keeping food safe.

Keep Foods Out of Direct Sunlight

Even before the dog days of summer set in, food sitting out in the sun can become unsafe quickly. Play it safe and don't put out any food until you are ready to eat. Make sure your buffet area, if outside, is in the shade.

Ice It

Place serving dishes containing perishable foods, such as potato salad, into a large bowl of ice to help them stay cool.

Cook Meats and Poultry to Correct Temperatures

A meat thermometer ensures that hamburgers and chicken breasts are cooked to the recommended USDA temperatures. Hamburgers should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees, chicken breasts to 165 degrees.

No Serving Plate and Tong Mixing

Make sure those hamburgers and brats are placed on a clean platter after they are cooked. Never reuse the platter that was used to bring the uncooked food to the grill. And watch your tongs. Clean tongs for chicken, clean tongs for brats are a must! Bacteria love to travel on those barbecue handlers.

Wash Hands

It should go without saying, but you really can't wash your hands enough when working with food.

Don't Forget the Leftovers

Remember the 2-2-4 rule. Hot, perishable foods that sit out longer than two hours are considered unsafe to eat. The USDA recommends throwing out any such food. After that time, the food is in what is known as the danger zone, where bacteria may rapidly reproduce and contaminate it. Two inches is the desired depth for storage containers. This allows hot food to cool quickly and evenly. Four days is the amount of time refrigerated leftovers are safe to eat. Frozen items, wrapped properly, should be consumed within two months.

--Richard Kralj