Picnics and other outside parties can be lots of fun as long as you plan for the situation. You can’t be too careful when handling and packaging food for cooking and eating outdoors. Summer heat increases the chance of bacterial growth in foods, and bacteria are more likely to grow in foods that are high in protein and moisture—eats, poultry, seafood, dairy products and egg dishes. Here are some helpful reminders on how to keep your food safe and tasty.
The three most important things to remember about serving picnic foods are:
- Keep HOT foods HOT!
- Keep COLD foods COLD!
- Follow the 2-Hour Rule. The absolute maximum time for leaving prepared foods at room temperature is 2 hours—including time for preparation, serving and eating. Discard any perishable foods left at room temperature longer than 2 hours. If you are eating outdoors at a picnic or cookout where temperatures are over 90°F, discard foods after 1 hour.
Here are a few more tips to help keep your picnic food safe:
- A well-insulated cooler packed with ice or reusable cold packs is a fine alternative to a refrigerator.
- Make sure the foods you pack in the cooler, whether purchased or made at home, have been kept below 40°F.
- Open the cooler as infrequently as possible to retain cold air.
- Although it may look nice to set all of the food out on the picnic table, it is safer to leave cold foods in the cooler until right before eating.
- Wash your hand thoroughly before and after handling food. Clean your cutting surfaces and utensils with hot, soapy water after each use.
- Thaw and marinate meats, poultry and seafood in the refrigerator—not at room temperature.
- Cook meat, poultry, and seafood thoroughly. Don’t start to cook, then stop, intending to finish later, as bacteria grow faster in partially cooked food.
- Eat hot, grilled foods immediately and serve on clean plates.
- Any food that has been left out on a picnic table or in a cooler with melting ice for more than 2 hours must be discarded.
Susan Bellinson is the Marketing Director for Whole Foods Market in Michigan. Visit Whole Foods Market locations in Rochester Hills, Troy, West Bloomfield and Ann Arbor. More recipes at www.wholefoodsmarket.com.
JAPANESE KALE SALAD WITH SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS (Serves 8)
1 cup packed dry arame sea vegetable
2 cups boiling water
2 teaspoons canola oil
1/8 cup toasted sesame oil
1/2 lb. shiitake mushrooms, sliced (2 cups)
2 bunches kale, chopped (6 to 8 cups)
1 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup grated daikon radish
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1/4 cup tamari
1/8 cup brown rice vinegar
1/8 cup canola oil
Recipe taken from The Whole Foods Market Cookbook: A Guide to Natural Foods with 350 Recipes published by Clarkston Potter/ Publishers, New York, New York.
- Make the dressing: In a bowl combine the dressing ingredients. Blend well and reserve.
- Make the salad: Cover the arame with boiling water and allow to soak for 30 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water.
- Heat the oils in a small sauté pan. Add shiitake mushrooms and sauté until golden brown. Remove from pan and reserve.
- Steam kale in 1/ 4 cup water for 3 minutes until bright green. Plunge into an ice-cold water bath to stop the cooking process and to retain the bright green color. When cool, squeeze excess moisture from the kale.
- Assemble the salad: Combine the cooked kale, plumped arame, carrots, daikon, sautéed mushrooms and sesame seeds in a large bowl. Just before serving, gently toss the salad with the dressing.