The Two Items You Can't Skip At Your Next Summer Cookout

Summer is coming whether you are ready or not, and honestly, who isn't ready for some fun in the sun? The warmer weather also means Americans across the country will be hosting backyard cookouts of all sizes, barbecues, picnics on the beach, and even heading out into wide open spaces for camping trips and grilling up hamburgers and hot dogs beneath a blanket of stars. It's a magical time. According to a Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association press release, people in the United States really embrace this cooking method around the holidays with 68% of Americans grilling on the 4th of July and 56% firing up their gas and charcoal grills on Memorial Day.

But just because COVID restrictions have been lifted for communities across the nation isn't a reason to start kissing random strangers and licking doorknobs. Don't stop using those hygienic and health-conscious practices, especially when you are cooking. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, vigilance will help to keep you, your family, and your friends safe. In fact, the USDA is recommending two items you can't skip if you are planning on partaking in this seasonal pastime we so love. 

According to its announcement, and after a little bit of observation during some demonstrations in its test kitchens, the government agency noticed some people aren't washing their hands or using food thermometers, leaving eaters susceptible to foods contaminated with bacteria. 

Washing your hands properly

According to an announcement by the USDA, Sandra Eskin, the USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, explained, "Summer is a time to relax and enjoy delicious meals with friends and family but foodborne pathogens never rest. Following safe food handling practices during this and all other seasons can reduce the risk of you and your loved ones getting sick."

Is it really that bad? Based on the department's consumer research, the USDA discovered that 56% of its participants "didn't attempt to wash their hands during meal preparation," and 95% of us aren't washing our hands properly. Ultimately, we should follow the USDA's handwashing steps, which will see you "wet [your] hands, lather [them] with soap, scrub for 20 seconds, rinse, and dry." Then, you might feel a little better.

Additionally, using a food thermometer isn't just a recommendation from the USDA; celebrity chef Bobby Flay thinks a food thermometer is an essential tool, too. Surprisingly, only 55% of those who participated in the study used one. But get a good thermometer before you start grilling to ensure your food's internal temperature is what the USDA recommends. And one more thing, keep your fruits and veggies away from raw meat to avoid cross-contamination. Follow these simple guidelines and you'll be taking the necessary steps to ensure your cookouts are memorable for all the right reasons.