Your outdoor kitchen is your cooking haven, but nothing can change that faster than a run-in with food poisoning. One evening you're having a relaxing dinner on the patio with your family, and the next morning you're suffering the effects of food poisoning. Or imagine how horrified you would be if you hosted a dinner party and served a meal that caused food poisoning.
No one ever plans for food poisoning, but neither do people consistently take the proper precautions to avoid it. Every ounce of effort you put into keeping your food sanitary is worth it. This blog will help!
Use antibacterial soap and water that's as warm as you can stand it to wash your hands and dishes. Make sure you're washing your hands each time you switch from working with one food to another, especially if you're going from raw meat to raw vegetables.
As for dishes, pay attention to what utensils and plates your using for each food as well as the different stages of food. If you're using one spatula to handle raw steaks and get them to the grill, wash the utensil before using it to take the finished steaks off the grill. This may seem obvious, but it's something that's forgotten by many distracted hosts who are doing their best to entertain while also manning the grill.
If you think raw vegetables and fruits don't have the same potential to cause food poisoning as meat does, think again. You should always wash fruits and veggies before eating, especially if you're planning to leave them raw.
Avoid wooden cutting boards.
Wood cutting boards absorb liquids, which makes them an especially bad choice for raw meat. If you happen to dice tomatoes on the same cutting board that you previously used to cut raw chicken, there's always the possibility that the juices your board has absorbed over time will contaminate the tomatoes that are going on your salad. A thorough dishwashing goes a long way, but it's better to avoid wooden cutting boards altogether.
Another tip is to reserve one or two cutting boards specifically for meat and nothing else.
Thaw food in the refrigerator, not at room temperature.
Most of us have done it at some point — we're in a crunch for dinner and need to thaw out salmon filets or burger patties as quickly as possible. So, we pull the out of the freezer and leave them on the counter. We all do this because it's worked out for us in the past. However, the risk is that you leave the meat out too long, and it reaches room temperature and spoils. What looks like thawed meat on your counter could actually be contaminated meat that causes food poisoning.
The best way to protect against this is to thaw meat in the refrigerator. That way, you know that no matter how long you let it thaw, it's going to remain at a safe temperature.
When thawing meats in your refrigerator, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Keep your refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler.
- Thaw meat on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator to ensure that juices from the raw meat do not spill onto other food and contaminate it.
- Always keep raw meat covered so that if something drops on top of it, it won't get contaminated.
- Thaw meat completely before cooking to ensure it cooks evenly.
Use a meat thermometer.
Meat thermometers are easy to use, and if they can keep you and your guests from falling ill, then they're absolutely worth the mere seconds it takes to temp your meat. Here's a quick guide to safe meat temperatures:
- Cook roasts and steaks: 145 degrees F
- Ground beef: 160 degrees F
- Ground chicken or turkey: 165 degrees F
- Whole poultry: 165 degrees F
Certainly, you can cook your meat to higher temps, but the temperatures above should be the minimum.
A little known fact about ground beef is that it is more likely to infect people with E. coli than chicken or steak is. E. coli lives on the outside of chicken or steak and is usually killed during the cooking process. However, since ground beef gets mixed together, the E. coli could be living inside your beef patty, and it will remain there if you don't cook your burger all the way through.
Keep hot food hot and cold food cold.
Obvious yes, but very difficult to do in an outdoor dining setting. If you're serving a meal in your outdoor kitchen, make sure you're aware of how long you're leaving condiments, salads, and meats out in the open air.
If you're serving buffet style, put cold things on ice and keep hot items in crock pots. if you're serving family style, don't be afraid to transfer items from the table to the refrigerator when everyone is finished eating. Offer your guests another drink or dessert so they don't think you're trying to rush them away. Everyone likes to visit around a cleaner table anyway.
The food is your deal, but we'll help with the kitchen!
We hope you'll take these cooking safety tips to heart, but that's ultimately up to you. When it comes to your outdoor kitchen, however, we can absolutely help with that. Contact us today to schedule a consultation or request an estimate.