Living on a farm, tailgating isn't always seen as a "party." However, when our daughters were small, taking a noon lunch to the field did give us a short opportunity to spend some family time together. We've even celebrated birthdays on a blanket spread in the grass at the edge of the field.
With fall and football season here, tailgating becomes almost as important a part of game day as the game itself. To ensure that foods stay safe to eat, here are some recommendations from Karen Blakeslee, Kansas State University Research and Extension food scientist.
* Purchase and prepare just enough food to feed guests, but not so much as to have leftovers that will spoil during the game and need to be discarded.
* Prepare as much food as possible at home. For example, prepare chilled foods in advance. Cover or wrap and chill well before placing the chilled food in an ice chest or cooler shortly before leaving for the party and game.
* Ask out-of-town guests to bring non-perishable foods such as buns, chips, fruit or disposable tableware to reduce opportunities for party foods to spoil.
* Keep raw foods and cooked foods in separate coolers to prevent cross-contamination. Dedicate an additional cooler for easy access to beverages without jeopardizing other cooled foods. The temperature in a cooler can change each time the cooler is opened, and the beverage cooler will likely be opened more frequently.
* Use plenty of ice. Block ice will melt more slowly than cubes, which melt more slowly than crushed ice.
* Wash hands before and after handling raw and cooked foods, and before and after eating, playing catch, etc. If water is not readily available, pack a jug of water, bar of soap and paper towels, single towelettes, hand sanitizer gel or older terry towels cut into squares, moistened and used with a bar of soap.
* Transport food coolers in the air-conditioned passenger area rather than a trunk or truck bed. Cover with a blanket and place in shade.
* Do not judge meat doneness by color. Pack a food thermometer to ensure meat is done, but not over-done and dry. Hamburgers should reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees F; poultry, 165 degrees F; and brats and hot dogs should be piping hot.
* Use separate utensils and serving plates for raw and cooked foods to prevent cross contamination.
* Know the rules; if the outside temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit or above, perishable foods should be discarded after sitting out for one hour. In temperatures of less than 90 degrees, the food safety window extends to two hours, unless the food has been sitting in direct sunlight or otherwise looks suspect.
* Make plans for protecting leftovers, such as wrapping and storing in an ice chest out of the sun. If that is not possible, discard them.