Tailgating is almost as much fun as the big game! Amateur chefs (aka football fans) can get pretty creative with their “masterpieces.” But too often, mishandling of that food can land someone in the hospital.
While team spirit is heating up, it is important to keep the temperature of your party food under control. To minimize the risk of foodborne illness, food should be kept at a safe temperature when being transported from home, a store or restaurant to the tailgate location. These safety tips come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA):
• Carry cold perishable food like raw hamburger patties, sausages and chicken in an insulated cooler packed with several inches of ice, frozen gel packs or containers of ice.
• Place an appliance thermometer in the cooler so you can check to be sure the food stays at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
• When packing the cooler for an outing, be sure raw meat and poultry are wrapped securely to prevent their juices from cross-contaminating ready-to-eat food. Always marinate food in the refrigerator, and transport marinated meat and reserved marinade in a cooler. Keep it cold until grilling.
• Perishable cooked food such as luncheon meat, cooked meat, chicken, and potato or pasta salads must be kept refrigerator cold, too.
• If bringing hot takeout food, eat it within two hours of purchase (one hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit).
• To keep food like soup, chili, and stew hot, use an insulated container. Fill the container with boiling water, let it stand for a few minutes, empty, and then put in the piping hot food. If you keep the insulated container closed, the food should stay hot (140 degrees Fahrenheit or above) for several hours.
• If you can’t keep hot food hot during the drive to your tailgate, plan ahead and chill the food in the refrigerator before packing it in a cooler. Reheat the food to 165 degrees Fahrenheit as measured with a food thermometer.
• In addition to a grill and fuel for cooking food, pack a food thermometer so you can check and make sure the meat and poultry reach a high enough temperature to destroy harmful bacteria that may be present. Safe minimum temperatures are 145 degrees Fahrenheit for beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, 160 degrees Fahrenheit for ground beef, pork, lamb and veal, and 165 degrees Fahrenheit for all poultry.
• Include lots of clean utensils for preparing and serving the safely cooked food.
• Bring water for cleaning if none will be available at the site. Pack clean, wet, disposable cloths or moist towelettes and paper towels for cleaning hands and surfaces.
• Discard any leftovers that are not ice cold (40 degrees Fahrenheit or below) after the game.
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