Football season is here.
For the next few months, whistles, the sounds of pads crashing into each other, and cheers from fans after their favorite team scores, will fill the air in stadiums across East Tennessee.
And so will the beautiful aroma of that perfectly grilled burger.
Yes, tailgating season has also arrived. And after filling your belly with those football foods we all crave so much, we want to make sure you’re headed to the stadium – and not to the hospital. Improperly stored or incorrectly prepared food can be dangerous, even life-threatening. The following tips will help make sure your tailgate is a winning one.
Making Sure Your Tailgate Is A Touchdown
The first play to be executed for your tailgate is ensuring that all foods are transported from the house to the stadium correctly.
- Carry cold perishable food (raw hamburger patties, sausages, and chicken) in an insulated cooler packed with several inches of ice
- Make sure raw meat and poultry are wrapped securely to prevent juices from cross-contaminating ready-to-eat food. It’s best to store these foods near the bottom of the cooler so that their juices don’t contaminate other foods in the cooler.
- If you can’t keep hot food hot on the drive to your tailgate, chill the food in a refrigerator before packing it in a cooler. Reheat the food to 165° F using a food thermometer.
- If bringing hot take-out food, eat it within 4 hours of purchase.
You should also have water, soap and paper towels at your tailgate for hand washing and a spray sanitizer for cleaning. Keeping hands and surfaces clean is an easy and important step in preventing foodborne illness.
Now that your food has arrived safely to the tailgate, the next play is making sure the food is cooked safely. Harmful bacteria is an opponent you don’t want to have to face, so having a food thermometer on hand at your tailgate is as important as the food itself.
- Beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, roasts, and chops must be cooked to 145°F.
- Ground meats must reach an internal temperature of 155°F
- Poultry and casseroles must be cooked to 165°F.
(Click here to see a complete, detailed list of the FDA’s safe cooking temperatures.)
More Safe Tailgating Tips
When taking food off the grill, use a clean platter. Don’t put cooked food on the same plate that previously held raw meat or poultry. If there’s harmful bacteria in the raw meat juices they could contaminate the safely cooked food.
Cook only the amount of food that will be eaten. This takes away the challenge of keeping leftovers at a safe temperature. When it’s time to leave your tailgate for the game, make sure your food is stored in the cooler. Discard any leftovers that are not 40°F or below after the game. Food should not be left out of the cooler or off the grill more than 4 hours.
When it comes to food safety, a good rule-of-thumb is “when in doubt, throw it out.”