As you plan your next backyard braai, keep it truly healthy and avoid food-borne illness by taking note of these five common food-safety mistakes and how to avoid them.
Basting with the marinade:
A golden rule of food safety is not to let juices from raw meat, poultry or fish come in contact with ready-to-eat foods. Raw items may contain a multitude of different disease-causing bacteria, most of which are killed off through cooking. If you baste with a used marinade, germs in it might not be cooked long enough, especially if you are basting when the food is nearly done.
There are two ways to use a marinade safely as a basting liquid: When you initially prepare the marinade, reserve some in a separate container for basting, or, once you remove the raw food from a marinade, you can put it into a saucepan on the stove and bring it to a boil. Since even a clean marinade comes in contact with undercooked meat via the brush when basting, avoid basting toward the end of cooking and toss out any leftover basting liquid.
Using the same tools for raw and cooked food:
Cooking food to the perfect temperature doesn't do much good safety-wise if you are transferring bacteria right back onto that food by using the same utensils and dishes you used for the raw ingredients. Think double when braai-ing; two sets of tongs, spatulas and plates. One designated for raw, and another for cooked food. Even better if they are somewhat different from each other - handle colour or brand - so you can distinguish them.
Touching food with unwashed hands:
Keep hand wipes and sanitizer (with a minimum of 60 percent alcohol) in easy reach of food-prep areas. To minimize contamination from guests' hands, have enough serving utensils (please put a spoon in that bowl of nuts and tongs in the chip bowl) and keep wipes and sanitizer out for them, too.
Keeping food out too long:
It's easy to let time slip away when you are entertaining, so set a timer when you put the food out to remind yourself of when it needs to be refrigerated. If you have guests dropping by at various times throughout the day, consider staggering the dishes you serve, putting some out at the start of the party, then replacing those with others later. If possible, keep cold food out on a bed of ice and warm food either on a side rack on the grill or in an oven. Your guests will not only be better served with a fresher-tasting meal, they will be better off in the days to come as well.