It’s summertime and the living is easy. Time for outdoor barbecues, dinner on the deck instead of in the kitchen and spending an afternoon in the sun with a drink and a few snacks on hand. As the temperatures rise though you do have to make some changes to the way you store and handle various food and drinks to ensure they are of the highest quality, taste great and most importantly of all are safe to eat. The Mother Nature Network and NSF.org, a public health organization recently discussed this issue in depth. Here are some of their most important pieces of advice:
When the temperatures rise germs and bacteria love it because it makes it so much easier for them to grow and multiply at a far faster rate than in the winter. That means that it is especially important that everything in your kitchen is as clean and sanitary as possible. That advice does not just refer to obvious things like counters, appliances, floors and walls but to things like cutlery, cooking utensils, food storage containers and even the undersides of dish draining racks, which can actually be one of the places in a kitchen that the most germs hide to grow, especially in the summer.
When the temperatures rise transporting your groceries home from the supermarket can become something of a race against time as frozen food and foods that need to be refrigerated can get far too hot quickly when packed in the trunk of a car in the summer months, sometimes to the point where they become inedible before you ever get them home. To prevent this make use of the cold storage bags offered at almost all supermarkets (or buy reusable ones of your own) and try to go directly from store to home to avoid leaving food sitting in a hot trunk.
We all love a great picnic in the summer but transporting food properly in this situation is even more important to maintain food safety. To avoid cross contamination if you are taking raw meat with you to grill keep it in a separate cooler to your ready to eat foods like sandwiches and salad products. You should also transport drinks in their own separate cooler as this is likely to be the one you open and close most often. Finally, store the cooler in the back of an air conditioned vehicle rather than in the trunk to help make sure it stays cool.
Ideally in the summer you should prepare meals just prior to eating them rather than making them ahead. This is one reason that outdoor grilling is actually more than just a fun activity it can be the very best way to cook in the summer as most people eagerly consume foods off the grill as soon as they have been prepared.
In the summer when the temperatures soar you really do have to change the way you eat. If the mercury has risen above 32 C (90F) then food can become unsafe to consume if it has been out in the elements for more than an hour. In slightly cooler temperatures that 'safe window' can be extended to around two hours but no more than that. That may mean that you have to pack more carefully and avoid taking too much food with you to avoid having to waste food that was not eaten up but is now unsafe to consume at the end of your big day out.