Keep it Clean
Clean hands, tools and surfaces before you start cooking.
- Wash your hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds before preparing, eating, or handling food.
- Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item.
- Wash or scrub fruits and vegetables under running water – even if you do not plan to eat the peel – so dirt and germs on the surface do not get inside when you cut.
- Separate meats from other foods. Use a separate cutting board and tools, or wash them thoroughly before moving on to prepare other foods.
Cook It Well
Cooking to the right temperature helps kill harmful germs. Use a meat thermometer to be sure of temperatures.
- Use a food thermometer to check meat and microwaved dishes on your menu.
- Cook chicken to an internal temperature of at least 165°F, and ground beef to at least 160°F.
- Fish and whole cuts of beef or pork should be cooked to at least 145°F internal temperature.
- Microwaving frozen food packages? Follow the cooking directions closely to make sure cooking is thorough.
Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold!
- Small containers cool faster. If preparing food in advance, divide cooked food into shallow containers and store in a refrigerator or freezer until the party begins.
- Keep hot foods at 140°F or warmer. Use slow cookers or warming trays to keep food hot on the buffet table.
- Keep cold foods, like salsa and guacamole, at 40°F or colder. Use small service trays or nest serving dishes in bowls of ice.
Watch the Time
Two hours is the safe limit for unrefrigerated food.
- Don't wait more than two hours after preparing food to refrigerate it.
- Don't leave food out for serving more than two hours (one hour if it's a hot day). Leftovers that are properly refrigerated can usually keep for several days. Even better, freeze them for longer storage.
Tips: Keep foods cold on the road
- Pack your cooler just before you hit the road. If you pack meat and poultry while it is still frozen it will stay colder longer.
- Pack foods in your cooler in reverse-use order: pack foods first that you are likely to use last. By doing this, you avoid having to unpack and repack the cooler along the way.
- Pack lots of ice or freezer packs to ensure a constant cold temperature. A full cooler will maintain a cold temperature longer than one that is partially filled.
- Keep drinks in a separate cooler from foods. The beverage cooler will be opened frequently while the food cooler stays closed.
- Take perishable foods in the smallest quantity needed and pack only the amount of food you think you'll use. Consider taking along non-perishable foods and snacks that don't need to be refrigerated.
- Don't let food sit out for more than two hours. On a hot day (90° F or higher), food should not be out for more than one hour. When the picnic is over, discard all perishable foods that have been out for two hours or more.