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Picnicking in Uncertain Times: Your Guide to the Perfect(ly Safe) Barbecue

2020 is the Year of the Picnic

“Picnics are the restaurants of COVID,” says Ti Marten, co-owner of Picnic Provisions and Whiskey. In a time when the habits of dining and tensions of shared indoor space bend under the heat of summer, there is one bastion of tradition still left to us: the time-tested virtues of a good-old-fashioned meal in the park. 

You may conjure a variety of images to suit your picnic fancy: paper and plastic, or china and silverware; tablecloths or ground cloths; take-out, pre-packaged, or homemade fare— 

But the undisputed king of the park picnic is the barbecue.

Think plates filled with butter-melting corn and fall-off-the-bone ribs, mom’s potato salad, a slice of white bread for clean-up, and hot dogs lavished with every topping. At a barbecue, the spirit of community gathering and dining is alive and well— even in the days of COVID. 

But there is more to those grills than meets the eye.

Dirtier than a What?

According to Medical Daily, public grills contain “124% more [bacteria] than the surface of a toilet seat.”

In fact, according to the survey, the public grill is the number one bacterial host in a garden, ranking even higher than a trash can lid.

Dr. Lisa Ackerley, Ph.D., a leading expert on food safety in the UK, spoke with Daily Mail in 2013 about this unsavory study. 

“We often see our gardens as an extension of our homes, but they could become a reservoir of harmful bacteria,” Ackerley explained. “They potentially give rise to illness and infection if transferred to your food or your mouth by your hands.” 

It seems 2020 may be remembered as the year the globe collectively experienced germophobia— and came out the other side more keenly aware of the microbial world.

“Bacteria found on barbecue surfaces that had no visible signs of contamination were teeming with listeria, salmonella, and E. coli,” said Ackerman.  

While this data has been available for nearly a decade, a collective urgency and awareness around these matters is rather new. Physicians believe that there are some lifelong habits we will adopt as a result of this pandemic.  

Don’t cancel the barbecue just yet. There is a solution.

Keeping It Clean

As our collective awareness of bacterial and viral risks increase, we’re becoming better citizens. We’re taking fewer risks with our health for the safety of others, exerting greater care in public spaces, and taking easy precautions that were available all along but once seemed excessive. 

One such precaution? PTFE grill sheets. These thin-as-paper nonstick surfaces instantly transform a public grill into a clean machine by providing a sanitary barrier, and they’re reusable hundreds of times.

Think of grilling on PTFE like wearing a mask; they’re as much to protect yourself from the unknown as to protect those we share space with. The history of that public grill may be a mystery, but your cookware isn’t. 

And frankly, a barrier between the known and the unknown is the peace of mind we all desperately need in 2020. 

5 Tips for a Perfect Picnic

  1. Wipe down all surfaces with a disinfectant and cloth, and bring a drop cover— There, don’t you feel better now? You can look the other way when your kid takes his food off the plate and eats directly off the table.
  2. Keep it light: heavy, weapons-grade accessories are out, light and portable is in: opt for PTFE cookware and plastic dishware.
  3. Potluck style: delegate who brings what to lighten the load, even if you’re traveling with a small crew. Break it up by category: drinks, silverware and napkins, ice, perishable food items.
  4. Seasoned chefs season ahead: Get as much prep work done as you can before you go. Marinades, seasonings, chopping, slicing, and washing are tasks best handled in the kitchen. 
  5. Take to heart this modern proverb: “The hero of the picnic is the one who remembers the cork screw.”

To learn more about Essentialware’s proprietary line of grill mesh and liners, connect to our sales team at [email protected] or 888-975-0405. 

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