May 23, 2016
By: Bridgette Keefe, Food Safety Education Staff, Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA
With the summer right around the corner, families across the country will take out their grills and start spending more time in the great outdoors. We are urging everyone to remember the four simple steps to food safety – Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill – and to steer clear of the ‘Danger Zone’ when grilling this Memorial Day weekend.
It is important to remember that bacteria grow faster in the same warm temperatures, so extra care should be taken to make sure perishable food doesn’t spend too long in the Danger Zone. That is temperatures between 40 and 140 ?F when perishable food spoils rapidly. Foods that should be served hot or cold should not spend more than one hour in the Danger Zone when temperatures are above 90 ?F, and two hours when temperatures are below 90 ?F.
What is the Danger Zone?
The Danger Zone is the temperature range in which bacteria can grow faster. Bacteria can actually double in number in as little as 20 minutes when perishable food is kept in the Danger Zone. In order to steer clear of the Danger Zone, you should always:
As always, we remind consumers to follow the four steps to food safety when preparing dishes for a cookout.
Clean: Make sure to always wash your hands and surfaces with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before cooking and after handling raw meat or poultry during cooking. Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and work spaces with soap and warm water too. If you plan to be away from the kitchen, pack clean cloths and moist towelettes for cleaning surfaces and hands.
Separate: When taking food off the grill, use a clean platter. Don’t put cooked food on the same platter that held raw meat or poultry. Any harmful bacteria present in the raw meat juices could contaminate safely cooked food.
Cook: Always use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of burgers, steaks, chicken, and foods containing meat or poultry.
Chill: After a cookout, place leftovers in shallow containers and refrigerate or freeze immediately. Discard food left in the Danger Zone too long. Remember, when in doubt, throw it out!