Internationally renowned chef shares picnic planning tips - AmericaNowNews.com

How to plan the perfect picnic

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It doesn't matter if you're eating on a blanket, in a public park, on the beach, in a canoe, or a highway rest stop -- picnics are an American tradition.

With a little careful planning, you can ensure your food looks and tastes just as good at your picnic destination as it did when you packed it at home.

A couple of easy-to-eat items make for a great picnic. Think basic: Bread, cheese, hard meats and fruit. 

Recently, America Now Reporter Jeff Rivenbark met up with Chef Peter Reinhart, a world renowned bread expert and instructor at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, NC.

Reinhart says sandwiches made with soft breads like sliced white or wheat bread will likely crumble and turn to mush before you ever arrive.

"A better choice is to go with a crusty hearth bread, for instance, a ciabatta or a baguette, or even a whole-grain loaf that has been baked on a hearth with that kind of nice, thick crust," and Reinhart adds, "You can slice it across and fill it with all your fillings and wrap it real tight with plastic wrap."

Hard cheese like Asiago, Parmesan, and dry-aged Gouda don't contain a lot of oil, and that's why they hold up best outdoors.

A soft cheese like Brie, however, can be very flavorful once it ripens outside.

"Get the kind that come in a little box because that will protect them and you won't have to worry about them getting squished," Reinhart recommends.

Dried meats like salami also hold up well outdoors. You can find them in pre-packaged containers in the deli at your local grocery already sliced or you can slice them once you arrive.

Olives and peppers pack well in small containers along with loose fruits so you can enjoy a simple appetizer and a sweet healthy dessert!

Don't forget to take condiments. Grab a handful of individual packets of ketchup, mayo and mustard like the ones you get at fast-food restaurants.

This allows you to use what you need without having to worry if a large bottle that's been out in the heat for while is still safe to keep.

"To really make your picnic fun and memorable and hassle free, you want to keep the bugs away, how about a little umbrella? It covers everything," Reinhart says.

When transporting food to a picnic, don't place your cooler in the trunk. It's usually several degrees hotter back there. Instead, place your cooler in the passenger area of your vehicle.

Once you arrive, always keep your cooler in the shade. Keep the lid closed and avoid going into the cooler unnecessarily because that lets the coolness inside seep out.

Remember, bacteria in food can start growing and multiplying once the temperature in you cooler reaches 40 degrees.


Additional Information
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How can I safely transport perishable foods to a picnic site, community supper, or family gathering?

If taking food away from home--on a picnic, for example--try to plan just the right amount of perishable foods to take. That way, you won't have to worry about the storage or safety of leftovers. 

Items which don't require refrigeration include fruits, vegetables, hard cheese, canned meat or fish, chips, bread, crackers, peanut butter, jelly, mustard, and pickles. You don't need to pack them in a cooler. 

After estimating the amount of food which needs to be kept cold, pack an insulated cooler with sufficient ice or gel packs to keep the food at 40 °F.

Pack food right from the refrigerator or freezer into it.  Why? Bacteria grow and multiply rapidly in the danger zone between 40 °F and 140 °F (out of the refrigerator or before food begins to cook). So, food transported without an ice source or left out in the sun at a picnic won't stay safe long.

If packing a bag lunch or lunch box, it's fine to prepare the food the night before and store the packed lunch in the refrigerator.

To keep the lunch cool away from home, pack a small frozen gel pack or frozen juice box. Of course, if there's a refrigerator at work, store perishable items there upon arrival.

Leftover perishables which have been kept refrigerated should be safe to take home. But once gel packs and other cold sources melt, perishables are not safe -- discard them.

When taking food to a picnic, don't put the cooler in the trunk; carry it inside the air-conditioned car. At the picnic, keep the cooler in the shade. Keep the lid closed and avoid repeated openings. Replenish the ice if it melts.

  • Peter Reinhart is the Chef on Assignment at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, NC.  In addition to teaching courses on bread baking and on Food and Culture, he also speaks to civic, church, and business groups on behalf of the university. As a world renowned expert on bread (he has written nine books on the subject, including one on pizza) he also speaks and gives presentations at conferences around the world. He is the winner of 5 James Beard Awards as well as The International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) and James Beard Awards for Book of the Year for "The Bread Baker's Apprentice."  His most recent book, "The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking" will be available beginning August 15th, 2012.  Peter has appeared on many television and radio programs and is the host of PizzaQuest.com, an interactive Internet video and recipe blog dedicated to the search for the perfect pizza.  (www.pizzaquest.com). He can be reached there at Peter@pizzaquest.com
     
  • America Now would like to extend a special thanks to the VanLandingham Estate Inn & Conference Center in Charlotte, NC, for allowing us to shoot this segment on location.

Copyright 2012 America Now. All rights reserved.

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