How to Safely Store and Handle Food Outdoors

Fully stocked fridge with open doors

How to Safely Store and Handle Food Outdoors

Enjoy risk-free cookouts and picnics with these food storage and handling tips from AcuRite!

Don't let food poisoning derail your camping trip or tailgate party! If you're preparing and serving meals outdoors, a few precautions can ensure a safe and fun experience. This quick overview will get you pointed in the right direction.

Know What Foods Need to be Refrigerated

We understand, cooler space can run out quickly, especially if you're packing soft drinks. Here's a quick list of foods that absolutely need to be refrigerated, and some that can be left out. You can also visit USDA: Food Safety Information for a complete list.

Foods You Do Refrgerate:

  • Meats and poultry (deli and uncooked)
  • Salads (such as pasta salad, potato salad, etc.)
  • Sliced fruits and vegetables
  • Dairy products (milk, yogurt, many cheeses, etc.)

Foods that are OK to Leave Out:

  • Whole fruits
  • Snack foods (such as popcorn, candy, chips, crackers, and nuts)
  • Bread
  • Peanut Butter


Adding a refrigerator thermometer to your cooler will give you peace of mind knowing that your foods are being kept at a safe temperature.


Always Have Coolers and Ice Ready to Go

Cooler for picnic

Sure, it might be tempting to wait to pick up ice at the gas station or campground, but you're asking for trouble. Instead, you should refrigerate perishable food items as soon as they leave the house or grocery store. If you're on a trip, pick up ice before you buy groceries...or simply grab some when you check out. That way, an ice cold cooler is waiting for your tasty treats, ready to keep them fresh.

Use Common Sense When Packing and Handling Foods

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If your cooler has been sitting in the basement since football season, give it a good cleaning and disinfecting. Clean hands are a must too, so wash your hands before reaching for that veggie tray. And if you're picnicking somewhere without running water, make sure everyone's using hand sanitizer and moist towelettes.

If you'd like to learn more, the USDA offers some great resources.

  • Visit
  • Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854)
  • Visit to chat with a Food Safety Specialist
  • Follow @USDAFoodSafety on Twitter to receive daily tips and information on recalled food.
January 13, 2017
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