Tailgating is a sport unto itself and it's important to have a game plan to keep food and fans safe. Here's a plan to put you on the "offense" for food safety:
When Preparing Food
- Plan for few or no leftovers. If you have leftovers, make sure they can be properly cooled in a cooler; if not, discard.
- Pack a separate beverage cooler so the main food cooler is opened less and stays cooler.
- Bring enough ice to keep coolers below 40°F until food is gone or returned to refrigerator.
- Use insulated carrying cases with heated inserts to transport hot foods or place hot foods in insulated coolers to maintain temperature.
- If possible, keep raw meat in a separate cooler, away from ready-to-eat foods. If not, store raw meat in leak-proof containers and under ready-to-eat foods. This will help prevent cross-contamination.
- Pack liquid soap, plenty of warm water, and paper towels for hand washing. A beverage dispenser works for transporting warm water and can be placed on the edge of a tailgate for easy dispensing. In a pinch, disposable antiseptic wet wipes can be used. With either method, remember to wash or wipe hands thoroughly for 20 seconds. Time and the friction of rubbing are what kill the bacteria.
When Grilling Food
- Meat must reach the recommended minimum internal temperature to kill various microorganisms:
- 145°F for steaks and roasts (beef, lamb, veal) for medium rare. (Medium = 160°F)
- 145°F for chops, ribs, steaks and roasts (pork, beef, lamb, veal) for medium rare. Let rest/stand for 3 minutes before serving. (Medium = 160°F)
- 160°F ground beef, pork, veal and lamb; egg dishes.
- These are the minimum internal temperatures; you may choose to cook turkey or chicken to higher temperatures for a golden, tender product.
- Use a clean, properly calibrated thermometer to check the temperature. Using a thermometer prevents over-cooking as well as under-cooking.
- Cook only the amount of meat that will be consumed in 2 hours or less.
- Tailgating Food Safety Fact Sheet
- Packing the Cooler for a Road Trip
- Safe Grilling Guidelines
- Test Your Grilling Knowledge
- Meat Grilling Times Chart (138 K PDF)
- Grilling Times and Temperatures (138 K PDF)
Reviewed by Suzanne Driessen 2016