By Kay MacInnis, RDN, LD, Diabetes Care and Education Specialist
As we enjoy tailgating and picnics, it’s important to know some food safety basics to keep yourself and your friends healthy. Generally speaking, the “danger zone” for foods is above 40 degrees and below 140 degrees. Cold foods should stay below 40 degrees and hot foods should stay above 140 degrees. If not, there’s an increased risk of bacteria formation and food poisoning.
- Bring three coolers: one for hot foods, one for cold foods and another for drinks. Having a separate cooler for beverages will keep you from tapping into the cold foods cooler too much and increasing the temperature.
- Bring hand sanitizer, paper towels, dish cloths, and dishwashing detergent to wipe surfaces.
- At the end of the day, throw away the food you’ve served. Don’t bring home leftovers.
Hot Foods Tailgating and Picnic Tips
- If possible, use a generator at your tailgate spot and plug in a crock pot for dishes such as chili or chicken bog.
- A small grill with a cast iron pot is helpful to keep food hot.
- Wrap warm sandwiches in a few towels after taking them out of the oven at home.
- Warm up bricks or a piece of stoneware and put it inside the cooler with the warm foods to help keep the temperature up.
- Use a thermos for soup or warm beverages.
- Bring a food thermometer to test temperatures.
Cold Foods Tailgating and Picnic Tips
- Keep ready-to-serve cold foods such as deviled eggs away from to-be-cooked raw meat in the cooler.
- Consider putting cold foods in the freezer for a short time before leaving home to get them extremely cold.
- Place a bowl with ice underneath serving platters of cold food.
- Drop a food thermometer in the bottom of the cooler to be sure it’s really cold.
- Set out small amounts of food at a time, adding more as needed, instead of everything all at once.