NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Perfectly Safe PIcnics

Perfectly Safe Picnics


                Summer time and the outdoor eating is good – and with a little planning also food safe. A few steps will keep your food safe from the refrigerator/freezer to the picnic table.

  • If cooking and preparing foods beforehand, like salads, meats, and poultry, give them plenty of time to completely chill in your refrigerator before packing them in a cooler.  Even the best cooler is still designed to maintain temperatures of foods - not cool them down drastically.  Consider preparing salads and other cold items the day before you are to pack them in a cooler.
  • Organize cooler contents. Consider packing beverages in one cooler and perishable foods in another. That way, as picnickers open and reopen the beverage cooler to replenish their drinks, the perishable foods won’t be exposed to warm outdoor air temperatures.
  • Keep coolers closed. Once at the picnic site, limit the number of times the cooler is opened as much as you can. This helps to keep the contents cold longer. As much as possible, keep coolers in the shade while at the picnic. Keep cooler lids closed and avoid unnecessary openings.
  • Don’t cross-contaminate. Be sure to keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood securely wrapped. This keeps their juices from contaminating prepared/cooked foods or foods that will be eaten raw, such as fruits and vegetables.
  • Clean your produce. Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water before packing them in the cooler - including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten. Rub firm-skinned fruits and vegetables under running tap water or scrub with a clean vegetable brush while rinsing with running tap water. Dry fruits and vegetables with a clean cloth towel or paper towel.
  • Outdoor Hand Cleaning: If you don’t have access to running water, simply use a water jug, some soap, and paper towels. Or, consider using moist disposable towelettes for cleaning your hands.

  • Marinate safely. Marinate foods in the refrigerator - never on the kitchen counter or outdoors. In addition, if you plan to use some of the marinade as a sauce on the cooked food, reserve a portion separately before adding the raw meat, poultry, or seafood. Don’t reuse marinade.
  • Cook food thoroughly. When it’s time to cook the food, have your food thermometer ready. Always use it to be sure your food is cooked thoroughly.
  • Keep "ready" food hot. Grilled food can be kept hot until served by moving it to the side of the grill rack, just away from the coals. This keeps it hot but prevents overcooking.
  • Don't reuse platters or utensils. Using the same platter or utensils that previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood allows bacteria from the raw food’s juices to spread to the cooked food. Instead, have a clean platter and utensils ready at grill-side to serve your food.

  • Cold perishable food should be kept in the cooler at 40° F or below until serving time. Once you've served it, it should not sit out for longer than 2 hours, or 1 hour if the outdoor temperature is above 90° F. If it does - discard it.

  • Hot food should be kept hot, at or above 140° F. Wrap it well and place it in an insulated container until serving. Just as with cold food - these foods should not sit out for more than 2 hours.


                Fried chicken is often associated with picnics. This up-to-date version uses chicken strips for ease of eating and is baked rather than fried for a healthier choice.


Southern Baked Chicken Strips

  • 1-1 1/2 lbs. chicken tenders or chicken breasts cut into strips
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cups Italian-seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


                Preheat oven to 375˚. Soak chicken in buttermilk for 20 minutes.  In a bowl, combine breadcrumbs, salt and pepper.  Pour olive oil into breadcrumbs and, using a fork, stir to coat the breadcrumbs in the oil.

                 Remove chicken tenders from buttermilk, allowing excess milk to drip off, and then coat chicken with breadcrumbs.  Place chicken tenders on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake in the oven for 6 minutes.  Turn the chicken pieces and continue to bake until chicken is done - about 6-8 minutes.


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