Food safety for tailgate parties

Oklahoma State University’s Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center offers suggestions to keep food safe for those participating in tailgating during the fall football season.

“Roughly one out of six people get sick from foodborne illness,” said Ravi Jadeja, FAPC food safety specialist. “Following simple food safety procedures and reducing foodborne illness can keep many people from getting sick. With tailgating season upon us, it is important to remember proper food handling and cooking techniques so your tailgate does not sideline your guests.”

Tailgating food safety tips:

Storing Perishable Foods

  • Pack a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs.
  • Raw meats, pre-made dishes and leftovers need to go in the cooler.
  • Store meats near the bottom of the cooler.
  • Separate and securely wrap all cooler items.

Food Preparation

  • Use separate plates and cutting boards for raw and cooked proteins.
  • Prevent cross-contamination by using separate utensils for each item.
  • Use color-coded knives to help keep you organized.
  • Wash utensils between uses.

Preparing the Grill

  • Pre-heat gas or electric grills for 10-15 minutes before cooking.
  • Pre-heat charcoals for 20-30 minutes before cooking.
  • Pre-heating allows food to cook evenly.
  • Never partially grill foods and then finish later.

Grilling Safety

  • A food thermometer is the only reliable way to ensure food is safe to eat.
  • Hamburgers and brats need to be at least 160 degrees.
  • Steaks and chops need to be at least 145 degrees.
  • If reheating an item, such as precooked hot dogs, cook to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Chicken breasts also need to be cooked to at least 165 degrees.

Safety During and After Tailgating

  • Keep hot foods hot, at least 140 degrees.
  • Keep cold foods cold, at least 40 degrees.
  • Throw away or put perishable foods in the cooler before heading to the game.
  • Foods should not be left out for more than 1 hour if it’s above 90 degrees outside.
  • Place leftovers in shallow containers to prevent bacteria growth.