By Brian Lippai on Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Memorial Day may be the unofficial start to summer but it's no doubt the official start to the backyard barbeque season. But before you fire up the grill keep in mind some safe cooking guidelines in order to keep your dinner guests from leaving with more than just a bad taste in their mouth. "To prevent the spread of harmful bacteria from multiplying and causing foodborne illness, it's important to take extra precautions and practice safe handling when preparing perishable foods," said Ocean County Freeholder Deputy Director Gerry P. Little, Liaison to the Ocean County Board of Health.

The problem can start with cross contamination. That's when bacteria on raw meat, poultry, seafood and egg products can be easily spread to other foods by juices dripping from packages, hands and utensils. Daniel E Regenye, Ocean County Health Department Public Health Officer advises, "To prevent foodborne illnesses, never use the same plates or utensils for raw or cooked meat and poultry."

As we move outdoors to enjoy picnics at the park or dinner on the patio, remember the heat can spoil your food and your outdoor dining experience. "That's why it's important to keep perishable items from the heat by keeping them refrigerated until ready to use or stored in coolers when eating away from home, Regenye, added."

The following tips are offered for safe food preparation and cooking for you and your family this barbeque season.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before handling food.
  • Use two cutting boards to keep raw meat, chicken, and fish apart from vegetables.
  • Use a food thermometer to check meat, fish, and chicken after it is cooked.
  • When taking foods off the grill, put cooked items on a clean plate.
  • Chill food and leftovers in the refrigerator as soon as you finish eating.
  • Always wash fruits and vegetables under running water before cutting or eating.
  • Keep eggs in the refrigerator; cook eggs until the yolk is firm
  • Defrost frozen food in the microwave or refrigerator, not the counter.
  • Mayonnaise-based foods need to be kept cold. .
  • Bacteria are often present on the rind of melons so it is important to wash the melon thoroughly before cutting. Once cut, refrigerate the cut pieces of melon.
  • Not sure about quality, expiration, etc. of food….WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT!
  • If you're picnicking you may want to bring a source of clean water for preparing and cleaning foods. You can also pack clean cloths and wet towlettes for cleaning surfaces and hands.