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Prairie Fare: Tailgaters, Are You Ready to Get Grilled About Food Safety?

Keep food safety in mind when having tailgating parties and picnics.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension

I heard a drum cadence, a high-pitched whistle and the sound of brass musical instruments outside my office window the other day.

I almost stood at attention and marched in place. The Gold Star Marching Band was getting students in the mood for the launch of fall classes at NDSU.

The music outside my window stirred memories. I think I played some of the same pieces when I was in the group many years ago.

I remember celebrating my 21st birthday on a snowy November day while sitting on the bleachers at a football game in Fargo. We were a dedicated bunch. We didn’t have an indoor field back then, so we had to huddle to stay warm. Fortunately, our uniforms were made of wool.

Create some memories during the variety of fall events coming our way. Along with the sound of marching bands and the cheering crowds at exciting football games, enjoy the flavors and aromas of tailgating parties and picnics. In fact, National Tailgating Day has been observed on the first Saturday of September since 2016.

Do you have a “play book” for fall tailgating parties before the big game? Try these burning questions about grilling to be sure you maintain safe food for your friends:

  1. What hand-held tool is important for maintaining safety and quality?
  2. If you do not have access to a source of water for cleaning up at a tailgating event, what should you bring?
  3. For safety, what internal temperature should chicken breasts reach, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)?
  4. What internal temperature should burgers made from ground beef reach, according to the USDA?
  5. What internal temperature should fish, such as salmon, reach for safety?
  6. What is the name of the process where you check if your thermometer is measuring accurately?
  7. True or false: Grilled fruits and vegetables are a tasty accompaniment to an outdoor meal.
  8. You are serving grilled burgers, cut fruit, potato salad and beverages. How many coolers should you bring?
  9. According to the USDA, how long can you keep perishable food (salads, cut fruit, grilled meat) out on a 70-degree day?

Here are the answers.

  1. A food thermometer is an important tool for ensuring food quality and safety. Thermometers are inexpensive but can be critical for food safety while maintaining food quality. Be sure you know where the temperature-sensing area is on your food thermometer. Sometimes, the sensing area is close to the tip, but sometimes, a dimple on the stem indicates the sensing area.
  2. Bringing some water and cleaning cloths would be the best option if access to clean water is limited. However, moist towelettes for cleaning surfaces and hands also are acceptable.
  3. Chicken should reach an internal temperature of 165 F.
  4. Burgers made from ground beef should reach 160 F. Burgers made from ground turkey should reach 165 F, by the way.
  5. Salmon and other fish should reach 145 F, or at a minimum, it should flake with a fork.
  6. Calibration. A thermometer should be calibrated or checked for accuracy. To check your thermometer, fill a glass with crushed ice, then add cold water to the top of the ice and stir to make a slush. Place the stem of the thermometer in the ice water and wait about 30 seconds. The thermometer should read 32 F; if not, adjust the nut under the thermometer head if you have a thermometer that can be calibrated. If you can’t adjust an inaccurate thermometer, you will want to get a new one.
  7. True. Grilling fruit and vegetables is a great way to add color, texture and flavor to your menu. See “Focus on Fruits and Vegetables” at https://tinyurl.com/NDSUGrilledFruit to learn more about grilling fruits and vegetables.
  8. At a minimum, you need two coolers when you are preparing raw meat and serving ready-to-eat foods, but three coolers would be better. Keep raw meat separate from ready-to-eat foods such as salads and fresh fruit. The meat juices can contaminate the ready-to-eat foods and the outside of beverage containers. Harmful bacteria from meat juices that land on the outside of cans can end up in your mouth. Because beverage coolers typically are opened frequently, having a separate beverage cooler can ensure that the salads and fruit in the other cooler stay cold.
  9. Do not keep perishable food out of a cooler and on a serving table for more than two hours on a fall day. If temperatures soar above 90 F, you have a one-hour safety window to serve food unless you serve the food in containers nested in ice. The temperature range of 40 to 140 F is the “temperature danger zone,” where bacteria grow best. Keep cold foods cold (below 40 F) and hot foods hot (above 140 F).

Make some great memories this fall, not memories about getting a foodborne illness. See https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/food/food-safety for a variety of printable resources to add to your grilling equipment as a reminder.

Here’s a recipe that adds color and flavor to your plate as a tasty dessert.

Sweet Grilled Fruit Skewers

1 small package of strawberries

1 medium pineapple (cubed 1 inch by 1 inch)

1 tsp. canola oil or olive oil

Pinch of sugar

Bamboo skewers

Soak four bamboo skewers in water for 25 to 30 minutes before use. Preheat grill to medium heat. Wash the strawberries and the exterior of the pineapple. Cut the tops off the strawberries to remove the green leaves. Cut the top and bottom off the pineapple. Then carefully slice the skin off, remembering to core the pineapple. Finally, cube the pineapple slices. Push the fruit onto the skewers, alternating strawberry and pineapple. Lightly brush the fruit with canola oil and let stand for five to 10 minutes. Grill for six to eight minutes, carefully turning the skewers to grill all sides of the fruit. Remove when the fruit is soft and has caramelized grill marks. Top with a pinch of sugar.

Makes four servings. Each serving has 70 calories, 1.5 grams (g) fat, 1 g protein, 15 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber and 0 milligrams sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences. Follow her on Twitter @jgardenrobinson)

NDSU Agriculture Communication - Aug. 23, 2018

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, 701-231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Ellen Crawford, 701-231-5391, ellen.crawford@ndsu.edu
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