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Food Safety Tips for Serving Salads at Picnics

Have some delicious homemade classic salads in mind for your next picnic gathering? Make sure the foods you serve are safe to eat by following these guidelines for storing and preparing popular salads, and getting them to your destination safely, with delicious results.


Ensuring Food Safety With Popular Picnic Salads in Summertime

Enjoyable picnics typically include a fine selection of tasty salads that look as good as they taste. If you want to ensure that taste stays consistent when you go from the kitchen to the picnic table, though, you'll need to consider a few food safety tips when serving salads at picnics. Here are four salads that require a little extra special care to transport outdoors.

Potato Salad

Most people have a favorite potato salad recipe, so new recipes won't be necessary. Safety in serving this salad, however, causes some debate among health experts. The raw eggs used to make mayonnaise are the major concern here, whether it will spoil in hot weather.

Store bought mayonnaise, however, is made with pasteurized eggs that resist harmful bacteria, and modern mayo also has high acid and preservative levels that also kill bacteria.

It is important, though, to keep your potato salad cold to ensure it stays fresh. Start with cold potatoes, and dice them before boiling them. Then, spread the drained potatoes on a large rack over a baking sheet, and allow them to cool completely in the refrigerator.

This allows you to mix in mayonnaise dressing and have it stay cold. Even if you cook your potatoes whole before dicing them, you should use the same cooling method. You can make your own simple dressing for potato salad out of water, flour, vinegar, eggs, dry mustard, salt and pepper, cooking over low heat until it gets thick.

You could also toss the potatoes with a vinaigrette dressing whisked together with mashed cooked egg yolks. Or, forget the eggs entirely and toss your potato salad with oil and vinaigrette style dressing, adding paprika and yellow mustard for flavor and color.

Other ways to keep potato salad cold outside is to serve it in two or three smaller bowls, as opposed to one large container. Set each covered bowl in a bed of ice, and keep the bowls away from the sun as much as possible.


Bean Salad

Bean salads are a potluck favorite, particularly three-bean varieties. Bean salads are a tasty, colorful, and refreshing alternative to worrying over more perishable salads at picnics.

You start simply with a variety of canned or cooked beans, choosing sturdy varieties that will hold up well to tossing in a salad. Three Bean Salad typically contains green, yellow, and kidney beans, but you can add any other favorites you enjoy.

Black beans might be wise for this type of salad, since the juice from the beans will tend to discolor the rest of the salad. A black bean and corn salad with pimentos is a better idea, if you like black beans.

Add flavor to bean salads by adding a simple Italian or vinaigrette salad dressing. In any case, there should be a nice balance between the oil and vinegar. Chopped celery, scallions, or sweet onions will add some extra crunch. And, as a final touch, you might include some fresh herbs like chopped parsley, cilantro, or basil.

Temperature isnít so much a concern here, but most people will still prefer to enjoy it chilled.

Green Salad

Green salads include all greens and vegetables, giving you many options and possible combinations. A mixed salad with your favorite greens, cucumbers, and tomatoes is classic, but there's plenty of room for inventiveness here.

The best way to keep green salads crisp and fresh is to pack ingredients separately and assemble the salad on location. This means that things like tomatoes and cucumbers should be packed separately, but broccoli, lettuce, kale, cauliflower, and other greens can go in the same container. And, of course, don't add the dressing until you're ready to eat.

Keep your ingredients cold until you're ready to serve, then toss everything together and set out your dressings in a bucket of ice. Any cheeses will need to be kept on ice as well. Add nuts, seeds, and croutons as a final touch.

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Gelatin Salads

There are many types and flavors of gelatin salads, but molded salads won't last long in the heat of the summer sun. Even when kept on ice, there will be part of the mold that sticks out of the ice, and will begin to drizzle down the sides as the day wears on.

Instead, stick with "jigglers," basic varieties where you can add additional fruit or other ingredients to the mixture directly. You can also experiment with less water in the recipe for a firmer, thicker final product that won't melt quite as fast.


Picnics and salads do go together, if you take the time to store them safely and keep them fresh, crisp, and tasty for the whole day. When done properly, your additional preparation and planning will ensure the foods you serve will be both safe and delicious.


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