In our final installment of camping safely, we explore how to cook safely so you can enjoy “al fresco” dining that’s not fraught with risk for food-borne illness. Keep these tips in mind while planning your menu.
Yes, you “can”! Canned goods are safe and shelf-stable. Plan meals that include peanut butter in plastic jars; concentrated juice boxes; canned chicken, beef or tuna; and dried fruit mixed with nuts.
Take temperature. If your menu includes burgers and hot dogs, make sure you have the proper equipment to keep hot foods hot, and cold foods cold! Besides the obvious equipment, such as portable stoves, make sure you have a food thermometer handy to determine whether your meat or poultry has reached a safe internal temperature. Ground beef may harbor Salmonella or E. coli, and only a thermometer can verify that patties are cooked to a minimum of 160 degrees F. Hot dogs should remain steaming hot.
Stay cooler. On the flip side (pardon the pun), keep perishables cool to stop contamination in its tracks. It’s thrilling to leave the dinner table by languishing under the sun with your meal; but remember: toxic bacteria multiply quickly within two hours, and within one hour on sweltering days. Pack at least two insulated coolers for your camping trip: one for drinks and snacks, and one for perishable food. Ice or frozen gel packs are a good idea, too. One last tip: pack coolers in reverse order, with food you plan to use first on top. That way you’ll avoid rummaging around to the point of disarray.
Sanitize hands and surfaces often; separate raw food from cooked. Roughing it outdoors shouldn’t mean throwing all caution to the wind; food safety is just as important in the great outdoors as in your kitchen.
Boil that beverage. Don’t rely on a lake or stream for your drinking water, no matter how clean it appears. If you’re not using bottled water, you should boil it for at least one minute.