The weather is cooling down, but the grill is still heating up. For many Canadians, barbeque season doesn’t end just because summer does. With the right tools, it can be a yearlong event. All it takes is a little determination—and maybe a toque.
But while outdoor gathering is a treasured time with friends and family, it can present some food safety challenges. When it comes to handling and preparing items that have been away from the fridge for a prolonged period, the safer the better. As with any cooking, it’s important to follow simple food handling guidelines at your next cookout to prevent food-borne illnesses.
Always use a digital thermometer to ensure meat is safe for eating. It’s possible for meat to change to a colour associated with doneness before all harmful bacteria have been removed, which makes the colour of meat an unreliable indicator that it’s safe for eating. Using a digital thermometer is key to any BBQ experience.
Always marinate meat in the refrigerator in a sealed container and be sure to store it in a spot that will not contaminate other products in your fridge. Never marinate on the counter.
Shopping for your meal
As with any good home-cooked meal, your BBQ experience starts at the grocery store. There is no better time to get all the ingredients needed for the perfect cookout and to prepare yourself for a great meal. However, before you race through your shopping, it’s important to be mindful of a few things.
While shopping for groceries, make sure you leave the cold food such as meat for the end of your shopping trip. Perishable foods should always be refrigerated within one to two hours, so it's important to provide yourself with the necessary lead time to get home. If you think the transport time is going to take longer, it’s worth bringing along an insulated cooler to hold your perishables, or buying one while at the grocery store. This precaution is especially important during those exceptionally warm fall days when your car may not be a cool enough environment for prolonged food storage.
Also, it’s important to keep meat separate from other grocery items when shopping. Aim to place your meat products in separate plastic bags to stop any juices from cross-contaminating your other items.
The do’s and don’ts of raw meat storage
After a successful shopping trip, it’s important to store any raw meat you purchased in the refrigerator as soon as possible. Any raw poultry or ground beef not used within two days should be kept in the freezer. Store any other raw meat in the fridge for up to five days; otherwise, it should be frozen as well. Regardless of when you purchased it, always freeze raw meat prior to the best before date.
If you are choosing to marinate the meat, always store it in the fridge and not on the counter. Any extra marinade should be disposed of so it doesn’t come into contact with anything else.
Defrosting frozen raw meat
Thawing raw meat always requires a little planning given the time it takes to do it properly.
There are a few things to keep in mind when thawing meat:
- Meat should never be thawed on the counter. Always thaw in the refrigerator.
- You can thaw meat in cold water, but make sure the package is sealed properly before doing so.
- Microwave defrosting is an acceptable alternative, but only if the item is placed directly on the grill shortly after.
Most bacteria that cause food-borne illness can be eliminated by heat, which is why it’s so important to cook meat properly to a safe internal temperature. However, it is important to note that colour alone is not a reliable indicator that meat is cooked properly.
When checking the temperature, make sure to take the meat off the BBQ and place it on a clean plate. Once on the plate, insert the digital thermometer into the thickest part of the meat to take an accurate reading. Make sure to check each piece of meat individually since heat on a grill can often be distributed unevenly.
Serving food properly
It’s important to keep meat as hot as possible until it’s ready to be served. Once ready to serve, remember to use a clean plate and not the one that held raw meat. A clean plate prevents recontamination of the meat from natural juices that were left behind.
When the meal is all but over…
It’s time to put another one in the books. You prepared, cooked and served a delicious fall meal. However, before you sit back and enjoy a relaxing fall evening, you probably still have some leftovers to deal with. Easy enough. Just make sure you refrigerate the remaining food in shallow containers and discard anything that has been left out for more than two hours (on warm fall days, no longer than one).
Remember, as the saying goes, “when in doubt—throw it out!”
Safety is the responsibility of everyone, and through careful planning and personal responsibility, we can all build a safer workplace for everyone to operate within. Contact one of our Sales Specialists today and let us show you why we are the right choice for your business: firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-563-COLD.