7 Food Safety Tips for Campers
7 Food Safety Tips for Campers
Food safety is a very important part of camping. If you have perishables along, you need to know how to keep them safe, or you could end up very sick. Some meats, like chicken, can actually be deadly when not stored correctly.
1. Avoid Cross-contamination
If you have raw meat on a plate and cook it, then put it back on the same plate, you have cross-contamination. The raw meat juices on the plate will contaminate the cooked meat. This is something to watch for in other areas, as well. For example, if you use the same knife to cut chicken and then vegetables for a salad, it needs to be washed first. Cutting boards, spatulas and forks are all items that could be contaminated, so think about what was on a dish before you place a finished dish on it.
2. Store Things at Safe Temperatures
Perishable food should be kept at a temperature of under 5ºC. This is pretty much impossible while you are living roughly. However, there are a few tricks you can use to help your food stay cool. First, get a cooler. Any meat or other perishables you want to eat in the first 24 hours or so can be frozen and placed in the cooler. Fill the remaining space with ice to keep things nice and cold. This should be used up within one day or as soon as the meats start to thaw out. Depending on the freeze and the amount of items in the chest, you may get two days out of it. The second option is useful if you have access to electricity. You can bring along a mini fridge for storing food in. This is expensive unless you already have a miniature fridge, but it may be worth the investment if you plan to camp a lot. Finally, keep an eye out for small coolers that run off of car batteries or solar panels. These options are rarely looked at, but they can be extremely useful on camping trips.
3. Get Rid of Leftovers
Ideally, you will cook just enough food to fill everyone up without creating leftovers. If you can’t keep this food at 5ºC, it won’t be safe for more than a couple of hours. Even cooked food will grow bacteria rapidly and can make you ill after just a few hours at room temperature. This is even worse if you have food sitting out in the sun.
4. Protect Your Food from Bugs
A few dish towels draped over dishes will keep flies away. Keep in mind that a fly landing on your plate of salad might have come directly from some nice poop in the woods. Tiny as they may be, flies can be very dirty. Avoid getting ill by keeping your food covered unless you are actively eating it. There are net tents that you can place over your food to keep out bugs, if you don’t want to go the tea towel route. Or you can simply snap some dollar store shower caps over the tops of pots and bowls.
5. Keep Food Away From Bears
In an area where bears hang out? You’ll want to take some precautions to ensure you don’t have some large, hairy visitors. Food should never be eaten or stored inside your tent. The smell will be an invitation to bears to come on in and have a feast. You may attract smaller animals, as well. Instead, store food inside a bear proof chest or in your car, with the windows rolled up. Any garbage should be immediately removed from the area. You can hang it in a bag from a tree, at least 10 feet up, or lock it in your vehicle. This goes for anything that might smell attractive to animals, including fish guts. If you go fishing or hunting and are cleaning the critter, do it far from your camp to avoid problems.
6. Cook Your Meat Properly
While steaks are fine to eat medium or rare, any pork, chicken, sausage or ground meat should be cooked until well done. You’ll know this stage when the juices run clear and there is no sign of pink anywhere in the meat. The reason for this is that these meats tend to be rather dangerous if not cooked all the way through. Don’t risk illness, just go ahead and cook thoroughly.
7. Wash Everything Well
Food safety isn’t just about the food. If your hands are dirty, you can also contaminate your dinner. The same goes for plates and any implements that have not been thoroughly washed. Use soap and water constantly. Make sure that you wash dishes and hands away from rivers and water sources and try to use biodegradable soap. You can also use cleaning wipes for your hands before cooking. Being a little paranoid about germs while you’re camping may be a good thing! Take care and use common sense when preparing and storing your food. Remember that the same principles apply at the campsite as they do at home, so work with it and make sure your food is safe.