With the arrival of spring and summer and the coming warm weather, you may have many more opportunities to entertain outdoors. If you are serving meals outdoors, you need to be aware of the rules of spring and summer food safety.
While food safety is equally important whatever the number of guests, it is more difficult to guarantee freedom from food-borne illnesses when large quantities of food and numbers of people are involved.
General Food Safety Rules
• Keep everything related to food clean.
• Keep hot foods hot (about 140 degrees and cold foods cold (about 40 degrees—refrigerator temperature)
• Begin with clean work surfaces, counters, equipment, cutting boards and utensils. For uncooked meat or poultry, use a separate hard plastic cutting board (less porous than wood) and wash immediately after using.
• Illness-causing bacteria thrive best at lukewarm or tepid temperatures—especially in these more perishable food categories: Meat and poultry (especially ground or chopped; fish or seafood; eggs, cheese and milk products; sauces, gravies, mayonnaise; sandwich fillings, stuffings.
• Do not allow any hot or cold food to remain at room temperature for more than two hours. To keep cooked and reheated food hot for a large party, serve them on electric hot trays or in chafing dishes, which may be electric or use alcohol, canned heat or butane gas as fuel supply. Candle-heated warmers are not sufficiently hot to assure hot food for safety.
• Cold foods, especially if they contain meat, fish, and poultry or eggs, cream and salad mixtures, should be brought directly from the refrigerator to the buffet table in dishes they are to be served in, thus keeping them chilled longer. Serve them in medium-size quantities and replace as needed. On a hot day, serve cold foods over crushed ice to keep them chilled.
• If you carry perishable foods to another place or to a picnic outdoors, pack them in ice in a cooler; keep the cooler in a shady place and open it as infrequently as possible. Return leftover food to the cooler on the return trip. Refrigerate leftovers from the buffet immediately. Remember, you cannot always detect spoilage from appearance, odor or taste. So discard any food that you know to have been exposed to room temperature for too long a time. It’s better to be safe than sorry.