Extension Connection: Be safe when cooking in great outdoors

Cooking outdoors was once only a summer activity shared with family and friends.

Now more than half of Americans say they are cooking outdoors year- round. So whether the snow is blowing or the sun is shining brightly, it&8217;s important to follow food safety guidelines to prevent harmful bacteria from multiplying and causing foodborne illness.

Use these simple guidelines for grilling food safel:

-When shopping, buy cold food like meat and poultry last, right before checkout. Separate raw meat and poultry from other food in your shopping cart.

-Plan to drive directly home from the grocery store. You may want to take a cooler with ice for perishables.

-Completely defrost meat and poultry before grilling so it cooks more evenly. Use the refrigerator for slow, safe thawing or thaw sealed packages in cold water.

-Meat and poultry can be marinated for several hours or days to tenderize or add flavor. Marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter. If some of the marinade is to be used as a sauce on the cooked food, reserve a portion of the marinade before putting raw meat and poultry in it.

-Keep meat and poultry refrigerated until ready to use. Only take out the meat and poultry that will immediately be placed on the grill.

-When using a cooler, keep it out of the direct sun by placing it in the shade or shelter. Avoid opening the lid too often, which lets cold air out and warm air in. Pack beverages in one cooler and perishables in a separate cooler.

-Be sure there are plenty of clean utensils and platters. To prevent foodborne illness, don&8217;t use the same platter and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry.

-Cook food to a safe minimum internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria.

-When taking food off the grill, use a clean platter. Don&8217;t put cooked food on the same platter that held raw meat or poultry.

-Refrigerate any leftovers promptly in shallow containers. Discard any food left out more than two hours (one hour if temperatures are above 90&161;F).

For more information, please contact your local County Extension Office or Angela Treadaway at (205) 410-3696