Food for Thought: Family picnics are fun with aunts

By Nancy Schuster, Frontier District Extension Agent

Did I catch your attention with picnics and aunts? Childhood memories of the time my cousins and I gave Aunt Alma a chair covered in ants to sit on for a picnic comes to mind. Obviously Aunt Alma wasn’t too pleased. I am sure we all were scolded.

foodforthoughtFood safety is something no one wants to talk about. We don’t want to read about food safety either. It’s boring! When food is improperly handled food borne illness can range from flu like symptoms to death. Occasionally, reviewing a few food safety facts is important for everyone.

Taking perishable foods from home requires keeping the food cold to slow down bacteria growth. Use an insulated cooler with enough ice or ice packs to keep the food at 40 degrees F or below. Save packing the food as the last job you do before leaving the house, directly from the refrigerator.

Perishable food like meat, eggs and potato salad should be kept at room temperature for two hours or less, and then thrown away. When serving a picnic meal outside, keep in mind that outside temperatures are warmer than your home. Don’t let perishable foods set out in warm summer weather. Refrigerate food within one hour when the temperature is above 90 degrees F. Once everyone has had a serving of food put perishable food back into the insulated container and keep cold.

When shopping, buy cold food like meat and poultry last just before checkout. Separate raw meat and put into plastic bags so meat juices do not drip on fruits, vegetables, crackers, bread and other food items. In summertime, make grocery shopping your last stop before home. You may want to take a cooler with ice for your perishable foods – remember the rule of two hours at room temperature.

At home, place meat and poultry in the refrigerator immediately. Freeze poultry and ground meat that won’t be used in one or two days; freeze other meat within four to five days.

When grilling meat that is frozen, thaw meat in the refrigerator, in cold water, or quickly defrost in the microwave and cook on the grill immediately. The plate you use to carry raw meat to the grill should not be used for the cooked grilled meat.

You can also precook food partially in the microwave and then immediately place on the preheated grill to cook. This can reduce grilling time. Never partially grill meat or poultry to finish cooking later.

Some studies suggest there may be a cancer risk related to eating food cooked by high heat cooking techniques like grilling, frying or broiling. Based on present research findings, eating moderate amounts of grilled meats like fish, meat and poultry cooked – without charring – to a safe temperature does not pose a problem.

To prevent charring, remove visible fat that can cause a flare-up. Precook meat in the microwave immediately before placing on the grill to release some of the juices that can drop on coals. Cook food in center of the grill and move coals to the side to prevent fat and juices from dripping on them. Cut charred portions off the meat.

Summer meat cookery often uses a marinade for meat. A marinade is a savory, acidic sauce in which a food is soaked to enrich flavor or tenderize. Marinade food in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Poultry and cubed or stew meat can be marinated up to two days. Beef, veal, pork, and lamb roasts, chops, and steaks may be marinated up to five days. If some of the marinade is to be used as a sauce on the cooked food, reserve a portion of the marinade before putting raw meat and poultry in it.

Summertime is a great family picnic time with family and the aunts. Keep your summer holidays, like the 4th of July, safe.

schustersmNancy Schuster is a Frontier Extension District family and consumer science agent whose responsibilities include providing information about food safety, nutrition, food science and food preparation. She is based in the Garnett office of the Frontier Extension District and can be reached at 785-448-6826 or email [email protected].

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