Whether on a patio, at the beach, on a dock, in a tent, or simply sitting in the backyard watching the grass grow, summer is all about getting outside to savour the sunshine. What better way to enjoy the great outdoors than with a BBQ! As chicken fans, we’re keen to cook up chicken breasts, thighs or drumsticks as part of a mixed grill. If we have a little more time, we’ll go for a whole chicken cooked over a beer can. With so much fresh produce in season, we might make up some chicken skewers that incorporate seasonal vegetables. And of course there’s always room for wings on our grill.
To help you enjoy a season of tasty and safe al fresco dining, here are some BBQ food safety tips.
SAFE BARBECUE FOOD PREPARATION
Storing raw meat in the refrigerator
At home, store raw meat in the refrigerator immediately after you return from the grocery store. Freeze raw poultry or ground beef that won’t be used within one to two days. Freeze other raw meats if they won’t be used within four to five days.
Storing raw meat in a cooler
If you are storing your meat in a cooler before barbecuing, make sure that the cooler is kept cold with ice packs. Keep the cooler out of direct sunlight and avoid opening it too often, because it lets cold air out and warm air in. Ensure that your meat products are well sealed and that ice water doesn’t come in contact with stored meat products. This can lead to cross-contamination with others items in the cooler. You may also want to use two coolers, one for drinks (as it may get opened more often) and another one for food. Whether you are storing the meat in the refrigerator or a cooler, always remember to keep food out of the temperature danger zone of 4°C to 60°C (40°F to 140°F). Bacteria can grow in this temperature range. In as little as two hours in this range, your food can become dangerous.
Marinate meat in the refrigerator, not on the counter. If you want to save some of the marinade to baste cooked meat or use as a dipping sauce, make sure to set some aside in the refrigerator that hasn’t touched uncooked meat. Don’t use leftover marinade that has been in contact with raw meat on cooked food.
SAFE BARBECUE SERVING TIPS
Keep hot food hot
Remember to keep hot food hot until served. Keep cooked meats hot by setting them to the side of the grill, not directly over coals where they can overcook.
Use a clean plate when taking food off the grill. Remember not to put cooked food on the same plate that held raw meat. This prevents it from being re-contaminated by raw juices.
Cool food by using shallow containers, so that it cools quickly. Discard any food left out for more than two hours. On hot summer days, don’t keep food at room temperature for more than one hour.
For a guide to safe cooking temperatures for various meat cuts, and for other safe BBQ cooking tips, visit the Government of Canada’s website.