Popular as barbecuing is, preparing and serving food outdoors elevates its safety hazards. In fact, the summer months see twice as much foodborne illness as other months of the year. If you’re grilling food outdoors for guests, be vigilant about food temperatures and rely on thermometers, not your eyes, to tell you when a food is cooked. According to the USDA, one out of every four burgers turns brown before it reaches the recommended 160° F temperature. (Hot dogs, chicken and veggie burgers should reach 165° F and steak is done at 145° F.) Remind staff to keep foods out of the temperature danger zone between 40-140° F. In the summer heat, it doesn’t take foods long to drift into this zone, in which bacteria multiply rapidly.
Everyone loves a summer barbecue, though cooking and serving outdoors requires taking some extra precautions around food safety. The USDA advises taking the PRO approach to grilling: First, Place the thermometer 1.5-2 inches into the thickest part of the meat when you think the food has cooked. Then Read the temperature after 10-20 seconds – beef, pork and fish should reach 145°F with a three-minute rest time, ground meat should reach 160°F and poultry should reach 165°F. Finally take the food Off the grill and place it on a clean platter – and wash the thermometer in hot, soapy water or with sanitizing wipes between uses.
As the weather warms up, there’s nothing like the smell of an outdoor grill to bring people out for food. If you’re cooking outdoors, make sure your grill is safe to operate and that you take precautions with it throughout the season to prevent problems. The hospitality business insurer Society Insurance advises that if you’re using a propane grill, check the tank hose for cracks, holes and leaks prior to use. If you suspect a leak or smell gas while using the grill, turn it off immediately and have it serviced professionally. If you’re using a charcoal grill, use only starter fluid – no other flammable liquids – to light it and don’t apply the fluid to charcoal that has already ignited. Coals and ashes should be completely cool before you discard them, at which point they should be placed in a metal container for disposal.