When It Comes To Street Food, It's Best To Stick With Freshly Cooked Meat

Allow us to set the scene: You're walking through the streets of a city you've never visited before, and it smells amazing. The air is filled with tantalizing aromas of steak on the grill. Shrimp and grits waft from a nearby stock pot large enough to fit a small car. A whole pineapple hangs suspended over a rack of pork ribs, all over an open fire — carne asada is on the way. Whether you're digging into chicken inasal in the Philippines or a hamburger at your local county fair, street food rocks. But enjoying it safely is key to "enjoying it" at all. Wherever you are in the world, make sure you're eating freshly cooked meat.

In general, the intoxicating smells of roasted meat are good signs. If you can see the cook frying up the meat you're about to chow down on, then you can be sure you're going to eat a freshly cooked meal. On the flip side, the trough of filler meat that was already cooked and just sitting there on the side of the grill when you rolled up, that might not be so safe.

Eat that street meat and stay on your feet

Leaving food out at room temperature is a big no-no. Bacteria are especially fond of the 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit range. At these temperatures, dangerous bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella, and E. coli to name a few) can multiply greatly in just 20 minutes. The USDA advises that even if it looks and smells okay, meat needs to be thrown away if it has sat out for longer than two hours, cooked or not.

To ensure safety, raw meat must be refrigerated at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler, and cooked meat dishes must be held at 140 degrees or hotter. It might seem like a pretty straightforward rule to follow, but the reality is a little different when it comes to setting up a street food operation, cooking on-site, and keeping meat at the proper holding temperature all day long. Overall, this food safety advice can be tough to follow specifically in the street food setting, which is why it's best to avoid stands selling pre-cooked meat, especially if it looks like it may have been sitting there for a while.

Enjoy street food worry-free by always washing your hands before eating, and being mindful of how warm it is outside. If it's 90 degrees or hotter, food shouldn't be left out for longer than an hour. With a little mindfulness, your next street food experience can be exactly what it's supposed to be: delicious and fun.