With long summer days ahead of us, it’s the perfect time to brush up on your grilling food safety. Bacteria multiply faster at warmer temperatures, which means cooking and eating outdoors in the summer heat can present a food safety challenge. So whether you’re a weekend-only griller, or you fire up the grill on a daily basis, keep your summer barbecue safe with these tips.
It’s Starts at the Store
Food safety begins when you are picking out your meat or poultry. Choose packages that aren’t torn, and make sure they feel cold. Put the container in a plastic bag so that any leaking juices don’t contaminate other foods. Fresh meats should be the last thing you put in your shopping cart so that they aren’t in the temperature danger zone (40°F to 140°F) too long. If you have a long drive home, consider bringing a cooler filled with ice to transport the perishables.
Refrigerate or freeze meat and poultry as soon as possible once you get home. Never leave raw meats and poultry out at room temperature for more than two hours, or for more than one hour if temperatures are above 90°F. Use refrigerated meats and poultry within five days.
Practice Hand Hygiene
It may seem like a given, but not everyone does it correctly. Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after handling raw food, after using the bathroom, and before cooking or eating.
Keep Raw and Cooked Food Separate
Any bacteria present in raw meat or poultry and their juices can contaminate cooked food. Always use separate plates and utensils for raw and cooked foods. Try using different color plates and tongs so you can easily tell the difference. On the grill, use separate areas for raw meats and cooked foods to prevent cross-contamination. If you have leftover marinade that was used on raw meat, never pour it over cooked foods. If you want to top the grilled meats with dressing, reserve a separate container of marinade.
Cook Food Thoroughly
Always cook meat and poultry to the proper internal temperature. The color of meat and poultry is not a good indication that it is safe. Invest in an instant-read thermometer and keep it by your side while grilling. Use this reference chart to keep track of the right internal temperature for all your favorite meat dishes. Keep cooked food hot (above 140°F) until you are ready to serve it.
Watch the Clock
Once the barbecue party gets going, foods often end up sitting outside for hours at a time. In temperatures below 90°F, cooked foods should never be out for more than two hours. Hotter than 90°F? Get that food in a refrigerator after one hour. If you’re having a day-long summer party, put cooked foods out in shifts so that nothing stays outside for more than two hours.