Grilling Food Safety and Guidelines

Cooking outdoors was once only a summer activity shared with family and friends. Now more than half of Americans say they are cooking outdoors year round.

So whether the snow is blowing or the sun is shining brightly, it’s important to follow food safety guidelines to prevent harmful bacteria from multiplying and causing foodborne illness.

Likewise, eating outdoors in warm weather presents a food safety challenge. Bacteria in food multiply faster at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F, so summer heat makes the basics of food safety especially important.

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Use these simple guidelines for grilling food safely:

1. Plan to be safe.

  • Risk: Food poisoning peaks in the summer months when warmer temperatures cause foodborne germs to flourish.
  • Tip: Check foods on recall list when planning your grill fest. When shopping, buy meat and poultry last, right before checkout. Separate raw meat and poultry from other food in your shopping cart. To guard against cross-contamination, put packages of raw meat and poultry into individual plastic bags.

2. Keep it clean. Stop the germs.

  • Risk: Dirty hands and prep surfaces can carry germs.
  • Tip:Wash hands, kitchen work surfaces, and utensils with soap and water immediately after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry. Also, fill a spray bottle with water and one tablespoon of bleach to keep handy to wipe off surfaces and utensils.

3. Groom your grill and tools.

  • Risk: Wire bristles from grill cleaning brushes may dislodge and stick into food on the grill.
  • Tip: Use a moist cloth or paper towel to clean the grill surface before cooking. If you use a wire bristle brush, thoroughly inspect the grill’s surface before cooking.

4. Curb co-mingling.

  • Risk: Raw meat juices can spread germs to cooked food.
  • Tip: Place cooked meats on a clean plate and discard marinades and sauces that have come in contact with raw meat juices.

5. Cook it well. Keep it hot.

  • 145° F – whole cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and veal (stand-time of 3 minutes at this temperature)
  • 145° F – fish
  • 160° F – hamburgers and other ground beef
  • 165° F – all poultry and pre-cooked meats, like hot dogs
  • Smoking: 250° F – 300° F – inside smoker
  • After Grilling: 140° F or warmer – until it’s served

6. Check to be sure.

  • Risk: Meat and poultry may brown quickly and appear done, even when not.
  • Tip: Use a meat thermometer to ensure grilled and smoked meats have reached the recommended internal temperatures to kill harmful germs.

7. Treat leftovers right.

  • Keep leftovers in an insulated (40° F or below) cooler while transporting.
  • Refrigerate leftover meat and poultry within two hours of cooking or one hour if above 90° F. Frozen leftovers should keep for about four months.
  • Divide leftovers into smaller portions. Refrigerate or freeze in covered shallow containers for faster cooling.
  • Reheat fully cooked meats, like hot dogs, to 165° F or until steaming hot. Use a food thermometer

BBQ Food Safety Infographic