For many, summer is synonymous with cooking out on the grill. According to the USDA Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS), foodborne illness peaks during the summer months, as harmful bacteria tend to grow faster in warmer, more humid weather. As you’re firing up the grill this summer, here are a few tips to keep your food safe, from fridge to grill to plate, as well as enjoying those delicious leftovers!
Preparing Foods for the Grill:
- Completely thaw meat and poultry before grilling so it cooks evenly.
- Marinate foods in the refrigerator, not on the counter, where bacteria can multiply.
- Discard leftover marinade – Do not use it as a dressing or dipping sauce, as it was used on raw meat!
- Keep Everything Clean: Wash utensils, platters, and your hands. Don’t use the same utensils and platters for both raw and cooked meat, as juices from the raw meat may be re-deposited on the cooked food, potentially making it unsafe.
While on the Grill:
- Cook Thoroughly: Cook meats to safe temperatures to destroy harmful bacteria. Use a food thermometer to be sure meats have reached a safe minimum internal cooking temperature.
Temperatures vary depending on the food:
- Poultry: 165 °F
- Ground meats: 160 °F
- Beef, pork, lamb, and veal (steaks, roasts and chops): 145 °F and allow to rest at least 3 minutes before slicing.
For more information on how to use a meat thermometer, visit the USDA/FSIS Thermometers and Food Safety page.
- Use a clean platter (washed with soap and water) when removing food from the grill.
Storing Barbecue Leftovers:
- Keep Cold Foods Cold: Keep meat and poultry refrigerated until you are ready to use it and only take out what you are going to put on the grill.
- Keep Hot Food Hot: After cooking meat and poultry, keep it hot until served — at 140 °F or warmer. If you don’t plan to eat it right away, turn the grill temperature to low and close the lid to keep food warm.
- Refrigerate leftovers in shallow containers and discard any food that has been left out for more than 2 hours, as it could have spoiled sitting out in the hot sun.
Enjoying Barbecue Leftovers:
- Reheat fully cooked meats like hot dogs: Grill to 165 °F or until steaming hot.
It’s easy to forget about uneaten food while we’re enjoying the fun of summer. But remembering these tips for safe grilling preparation, cooking, and storing will help ensure that everyone has a safe and happy barbecue!
For more information, visit IFIC Foundation’s Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety