Over the last couple of blog posts, we have talked about some of the ways to keep your guests from contracting foodborne illnesses during your summer cookouts. Previously, we have discussed maintaining a clean grill and proper handling procedures for meats, chicken, and seafood. While grilling is a big part of most summer cookouts, there is often a variety of other foods that help to complete a backyard meal. With several months of warm weather — and numerous opportunities for cookouts — still to go this year, it is time to talk about keeping the side dishes safe as well.
Maintaining Safe Temperatures
Most backyard barbecues are more or less buffet-style meals, especially those that involve larger numbers of guests. The most basic food safety rule for buffet-style meals is to keep foods hot if they are supposed to be hot and cold if they are supposed to be cold. Hot means above 140° F, and cold means below 40° F. The “danger zone” for food safety is between these temperatures, and food should not be left in the danger zone for longer than two hours. If the outdoor temperature is above 90° F, food should not be in the danger zone for longer than one hour. Dangerous bacteria can multiply very quickly in the danger zone.
Here are a few tips for keeping food safe:
- Bring out food in batches: There is no need to put all of the food for the entire day out at once. Leave cold foods in the refrigerator and replenish the food table only as needed. If the food on the table has been out for too long, throw it away and wash the dish before replenishing.
- Crock pots and chafing dishes: One of the best ways to keep hot foods hot is to put the food in chafing dishes or crockpots on the food table. Be sure to keep the lids on when your guests are not serving themselves.
- Use trays of ice: For cold foods, such as vegetable trays and dips, you can set the serving dish in a shallow pan surrounded by ice. This will help keep the food cold and out of the danger zone.
- Put food away when eating slows down: If your guests have largely finished eating, do not be afraid to start putting food away. It is one thing to leave out bowls of snacks, such as potato chips or pretzels, but foods that should be either hot or cold can be put away when the main mealtime is over.
Speak With an Illinois Food Poisoning Attorney
If you have suffered from food poisoning after attending a summer cookout, a Chicago foodborne illness attorney can help you understand your options for taking action. Call 312-981-0409 for a free consultation at Newland & Newland LLP today to discuss your situation. We are here to make sure that your rights and best interests are fully protected.