Follow the same basic steps to keeping food safe in the kitchen for keeping outdoor picnic food safe. Cleaning, separating, cooking, and chilling food helps to keep picnic food safe and spoil-free.
Keep the Food Clean: When preparing food for your picnic, clean your hands and prep surfaces often. Moist towelettes or soap and water will do the trick.
Separate Raw and Cooked Food: To avoid cross-contamination among different picnic foods, bring plenty of plates and utensils along. Designate some plates for handling raw foods and the others for handling cooked foods. Keep uncooked meats, poultry, fish, and shellfish separate from other foods and transport in tightly sealed bags or containers; pack them at the bottom of the cooler so that juices from these foods do not drip onto other foods.
Cook Picnic Food Properly: Use a food thermometer to make sure your foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature and don't partially cook or grill food with the intent of finishing the cooking later.
Chill Picnic Food: When packing food into your picnic basket or cooler, remember these tips for keeping it at the right temperature:
- Keep perishable foods at a temperature of 40 degrees F or below by packing them in a well-insulated cooler with plenty of ice or ice packs. A full cooler will maintain its cold temperature longer than a partially filled one. Thaw meat, poultry, fish, and shellfish in the refrigerator before taking it to a picnic. Wait until just before leaving home to pack perishable foods in the cooler.
- Take two insulated coolers (one for drinks and the other for perishable foods) so warm air won't reach the perishables each time someone grabs a chilled beverage.
- On your way to the picnic, place coolers in the coolest part of your air-conditioned car rather than the trunk. At the picnic location, keep coolers tightly closed in a shady area and add ice often.
- Keep picnic food in the coolers until you need them; remove raw food only when you're ready to put it on the grill. (If you're grilling in batches, keep the food that's not being grilled in the cooler.)
- Discard any perishable food left outside for more than two hours (one hour if the temperature is above 80 degrees F).