Summer BBQ & Grilling Food Safety

Summer heat is here – Father’s Day is soon – and grilling or bbq is a fun way to cook and serve food. It’s also the season for picnics, cookouts, and other outdoor parties.

However, food poisoning peaks in the summer months when warmer temperatures cause foodborne germs to flourish. Bacteria in food multiplies faster at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F, so summer heat makes the basics of food safety especially important.

Likewise, grilling and bbq can also be a means to transmit disease if care is not taken in how the food is handled.

So whatever the occasion, it’s important to follow food safety guidelines to prevent harmful bacteria from multiplying and causing foodborne illness.

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Get Ready to Grill Food Safely

Follow these steps for a food safe and enjoyable summer grilling season:

A. Separate

When shopping, pick up meat, poultry, and seafood last, right before checkout. Separate them from other food in your shopping cart and grocery bags. To guard against cross-contamination, put packages of raw meat and poultry into individual plastic bags.

B. Chill

Keep meat, poultry, and seafood refrigerated until ready to grill. When transporting, keep below 40°F in an insulated cooler.

C. Clean

Wash your hands with soap before and after handling raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Wash work surfaces, utensils, and the grill before and after cooking.

D. Cook

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. Wire bristles from grill cleaning brushes may dislodge and stick into food on the grill.

Use a food thermometer to ensure meat is cooked hot enough to kill harmful germs. When smoking, keep temperatures inside the smoker at 225°F to 300°F to keep meat a safe temperature while it cooks.

  • 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 smoke

After Grilling: 140°F or warmer – until it’s served

E. Don’t cross-contaminate

Throw out marinades and sauces that have touched raw meat juices, which can spread germs to cooked foods. Use clean utensils and a clean plate to remove cooked meat from the grill.

F. Refrigerate

Divide leftovers into small portions and place in covered, shallow containers. Put in freezer or fridge within two hours of cooking (one hour if above 90°F outside).

Does Grilling Pose a Cancer Risk?

Some studies suggest there may be a cancer risk related to eating food cooked by high-heat cooking techniques as grilling, frying, and broiling. Based on present research findings, eating moderate amounts of grilled meats like fish, meat, and poultry cooked — without charring — to a safe temperature does not pose a problem.

To prevent charring, remove visible fat that can cause a flare-up. Precook meat in the microwave immediately before placing it on the grill to release some of the juices that can drop on coals. Cook food in the center of the grill and move coals to the side to prevent fat and juices from dripping on them. Cut charred portions off the meat.

Additional BBQ Food Safety Resources