Tips for a Great Picnic…
Photo: Veterans Day Cake by Diane’s Sweet Treats
For those who live in areas where Veteran’s Day weather still allows for picnic and grilling type events remember that taking care of picnic left over food is as important as preparing and organizing the picnic itself.
Although it isn’t necessary to throw everything leftover in the trash, it is wise to be prudent. Better to throw something out than get sick from it later!
There are lots of ways to save, use and recycle leftovers but remember that much of your food probably sat out in the sun and heat for a good part of the day or was subject to germs and spoilage. The first test is do they still look and smell good?
Who doesn't like a picnic? When you combine good food and company with fresh air and sunshine, you're free to throw fuss to the wind. But the recipe for a successful picnic doesn't end there. You'll need a variety of basic supplies within easy reach throughout the duration of your outing. And while a picnic should be laidback, you'll want to follow a few important safety rules. Finally, you don't want your picnic washed out, so be sure to check the latest forecast. But if the worst happens, who says you can't picnic indoors?
Whether you're planning a picnic to celebrate an occasion or simply enjoy a pleasant summer afternoon, it's easy to make each picnic unique. The food, candles, flowers, games, music, and other diversions you bring add a special touch. But no matter the occasion, most every picnic requires some basic essentials. Consider the following:
For Transporting and Storage
For Safety and Comfort
Choosing where to picnic can be half the fun. Whether your dining destination is your backyard, a local park, or a nearby beach, just follow common sense and a few important guidelines to ensure the great outdoors stay great.
Be Responsible When Using Public Lands
You can help to take good care of our public lands so that others may enjoy these areas for years to come by practicing some of the following actions:
- Don't Litter. Take along a trash bag or other receptacle for collecting your trash so that you can deposit it in the proper trash receptacle.
- Make sure that you are using the correct type of cooking equipment permitted in that area. Check with your destination ahead of time for seasonal fire or campstove restrictions that may be in place.
- Don't picnic in areas where you are not permitted. These areas have been declared "off limits" to picnickers to protect wildlife, vegetation, or for your safety.
Personal Safety While Picnicking
Be sure to follow these safety tips when planning a picnic in an unfamiliar area:
- Check with local park, forest, or public lands agents to see what precautions need to be taken in regard to storing food away from wildlife. Do not feed the local wildlife!
- Take precautions against picnicking in an area that may be dangerous in case of sudden flash floods. Check with local rangers to find a safe and legal picnic area.
- Remember to take along non-perishable food items.
- Be courteous and remember that you are sharing public lands with other picnickers and recreationists.
- Do not picnic on unauthorized areas.
- Bring along extra safety items such as water, flashlights, maps, and a cell phone or radio.
Although it may seem we pack too much before heading out on a picnic, they'd be quite a bit safer if we could actually pack the kitchen sink. Food spoilage and cross-contamination are real concerns when eating food outdoors in warm weather without the use of a kitchen. Be sure to follow these tips to ensure your picnic is a healthy one.
Keep Everything Clean
Find out if there's a source of potable (safe drinking) water at your destination. If not, bring water for preparation and cleaning; or pack clean, wet, disposable cloths or moist towelettes and paper towels for cleaning hands and surfaces. Cross-contamination during preparation, grilling, and serving food is a prime cause of foodborne illness.
Always wash your hands before and after handling food, and don't use the same platter and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry. Soap and water are essential to cleanliness, so if you are going somewhere that will not have potable water, bring it with you. Even disposable wipes will do. Include lots of clean utensils, not only for eating but also for serving the safely cooked food.
Keep Hot Food Hot and Cold Food Cold
It's essential to keep hot food hot and cold food cold throughout the duration of your picnic. Holding food at an unsafe temperature is a prime cause of foodborne illness. Already-hot summertime temperatures can spike higher in direct sunlight. Store coolers in the shade whenever possible. Food should not be left out of the cooler or off the grill more than 2 hours (1 hour when the outside temperature is above 90°F).
Carry cold perishable food like hamburger patties, hotdogs, luncheon meats and chicken in an insulated cooler packed with plenty of ice or frozen gel packs. Be sure raw meat and poultry are wrapped securely to prevent juices from cross-contaminating ready-to-eat food. Perishable cooked foods such as meats, chicken and potato or pasta salads must be kept cold, too. Don't stock the cooler until immediately before leaving home. Keep the cooler in the coolest part of the car when traveling.
The Danger Zone
Most bacteria do not grow rapidly at temperatures below 40°F or above 140°F. The temperature range in between is known as the "Danger Zone." Bacteria multiply rapidly at these temperatures and can reach dangerous levels. Raw meat and poultry products may contain bacteria that cause foodborne illness, especially when exposed to this temperature zone. They must be cooked to destroy these bacteria and held at temperatures that are either too hot or too cold for these bacteria to grow.
If bringing hot take-out food such as fried chicken or barbecue, eat it within two hours of purchase. Or plan ahead and chill the food in your refrigerator before packing it into an insulated cooler.
If you plan to use a grill on your picnic, remember to pack a food thermometer. Check that your meat and poultry reach a safe internal temperature. When reheating food at the outing, be sure it reaches 165°F. Cook only the amount of food that will be eaten to avoid the challenge of keeping leftovers at a safe temperature. Discard any leftovers that have not remained cold. Learn more grilling safety tips.
Sources: Recreation.gov; Food Safety and Inspection Service, United States Department of Agriculture