Parks are beginning to open. The “home” school year has officially ended. It is time to GET OUTSIDE!
Ah, the smell of a campfire. Roasted marshmallows, hot dogs, fruit cobbler, foil packets of hobo stew…. there is nothing as good as simple food cooked over fire. Whether it’s a day at the park or a weekend camping trip, preparing and eating food outdoors takes some special consideration. You need to follow some basic food safety steps. This Sunday is World Food Safety Day—let’s observe it by having fun outdoors and making sure the food you are sharing is safe.
We all know to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. If you are only going to be gone a couple of hours you can keep hot foods hot in an insulated container made for that purpose, otherwise, it is best to cook the food at the campsite or park. In order to ensure safe food, keep the food as cold as possible before you cook. Freeze meat in freezer bags before putting them into your insulated cooler. A good idea is to pour marinade or dry rub over the meat before you put it into the cooler, that way the meat will absorb the flavors as it slowly thaws in the cooler. Place large blocks of ice in the cooler as they melt more slowly than cubes. You can make ice blocks by freezing water in clean plastic food grade containers leftover from ice cream, cottage cheese or other food items. This will slow the thawing process and ensure that even hours later, the temperature will not have risen over the 40 ° danger zone mark.
Use two coolers, one for meats and vegetables (wrapped separately) that will be cooked and another for fruits and vegetables that will be eaten raw, dairy products and beverages. Make sure your hands and all surfaces touched by raw meat are washed prior to and after preparation. It is very important that you do not cross contaminate other surfaces by simply wiping the raw meat juices with a dry towel. Wash everything with hot soapy water.
If there is not hot running water nearby make a hand washing station with an insulated drink cooler (heat the water before putting it in the cooler), some liquid soap and a roll of paper towels. After you have made sure everything is clean, it is time to cook. Bring a thermometer along—it is the only sure way to tell if the meat is “done” and always use a clean platter to serve the cooked meat.
Food borne illness is never a good thing and it is worse when it occurs away from home. Keep your family safe by keeping your campsite and your hands clean!