Fire Up the Grill!

Summer food safety tips.

It’s summertime again and you know what that means—picnics, backyard barbeques, and cookouts. So gather your family and friends and fire up the grill. Just be careful. Because while eating outdoors is a fun thing to do, the heat and food prep conditions increase your potential for spreading foodborne illness. Since bacteria grow the fastest when the temperature is between 40 and 140 degrees, take special precautions when preparing and serving food outside.
Just what special precautions will ensure you and your guests enjoy the party without any regrets later that evening? Keep reading to find out.

Take Precaution When Purchasing

Meat and poultry are a major concern when it comes to foodborne illness. Therefore, they should be kept as cool as possible to avoid bacterial growth. Shop for meat and poultry last so they’re not sitting in your shopping cart. Then take them straight home to your refrigerator. Place meat in the freezer if you’re not planning to cook it for a couple days. Perishable food should never be left out more than two hours—one hour on hot days.

Take Precaution When Thawing

Always thaw meat in the refrigerator, microwave, or in sealed bags in cold water, not on the counter. That way, it will cook more evenly when it’s completely thawed.

Take Precaution When Marinating

When you want meat done right, a savory marinade is the way to go. But never marinade food while it’s sitting on the counter. Instead, always keep your meat cold in the refrigerator or cooler until it’s ready to be cooked. Once you’ve used a marinade sauce on raw meat, do not reuse it on cooked meat.

Take Precaution When Washing

An important step never to be overlooked in food safety is hand washing.
Before handling or eating food, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. If you’re in a setting with no running water, use a moist disposable wipe to wash with. You should also be careful to keep raw meat and plates or utensils that touch raw meat juices away from cooked meat and other food. When your food is ready to pull off the grill, use a clean plate to place it on. Fruits and vegetables should also be scrubbed before eating.

Finally, any time something comes in contact with raw meat or poultry, wash it! That goes for hands, plates, and utensils—and use hot soapy water to make sure your washing is effective.

Take Precaution When Cooking

All meat and poultry must be cooked to a safe internal temperature in order to kill any harmful bacteria lurking inside. Since meat can look done on the outside without being adequately cooked on the inside when grilling at high temperatures, use a food thermometer to be on the safe side.

All poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Ground meat (for hamburgers) should hit 160 degrees, and a safe internal temperature for beef, lamb, pork, and veal is 145 degrees.

Take Precaution When Storing

As you prep for a picnic, remember to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot until ready to be eaten. Wrap hot foods in an insulated container, keep it on the side of the grill, or stick in a warm oven until serving time. Hot take-out food from a restaurant should be eaten within two hours after purchase, while foods like dessert and chicken salad should be kept on ice at all times.

When the meal is over, place leftovers in a refrigerator or cooler. Never let food to be left out for more than an hour when it’s hot outside. Forget to get that food in the refrigerator quick enough? Throw it away. Better safe than sorry!