For most, Memorial Day Weekend officially kicks off summer grilling season! Perhaps you’re stocking up on charcoal and filling propane tanks to prepare for another great season of cooking out.

But don’t forget about food safety.

Here are a few tips to keep your food safe, from the USDA’s Grill it Safe program.

SBeattie_448Be sure to:

  • Keep food refrigerated until ready to use.
  • Avoid the “Danger Zone!” Bacteria can grow rapidly between 40 to 140 °F.
  • Don’t allow perishables to stay unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature is above 90 °F).
  • Store perishables, including leftovers, in the refrigerator or a cooler. Use ice or gel packs inside the cooler to keep food cold.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when using a grill, whether it is charcoal or gas.
  • Start with clean hands and a clean grill and utensils.
  • Prepare your ingredients, like marinades, dry rubs, oils, and sauces, ahead of time.

Washing Hands:

  • Wash hands for at least 20 seconds with warm, soapy water. Many people don’t realize that they can make people sick if they fail to wash hands before handling food.


  • Cross-contamination can occur when a cutting board or plate that held raw food comes in contact with foods that are ready to eat.
  • Clean cutting boards and food thermometers in hot, soapy water between uses. Use a clean plate for cooked foods that you remove from the grill.
  • Discard marinades or sauces that have come in contact with raw meat juices. Keep raw meat juices away from cooked foods by using a clean plate.

DSC03228Charcoal or Gas:

  • It is important that the grill is hot enough to safely cook your food. One way of gauging this is when you can’t keep your hand over it for 2 seconds.
  • If charcoal is your choice, buy commercial charcoal briquettes or aromatic wood chips. Follow the manufacturer’s directions on the package label.
  • A gas grill has hot and cold spots. Know your grill and read your manual.

Meat and Poultry:

  • Completely thaw meat or poultry before cooking.
  • Trim excess fat from meat to prevent fire and grease flare-ups.
  • Always marinate foods in the refrigerator using a glass or plastic food-safe container.
  • Use a food thermometer to ensure that meat and poultry have reached a safe minimum internal temperature.

USDA Recommended Safe Minimum Internal Temperatures:

  • Cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145 °F as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook meat to higher temperatures.
  • Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 160 °F as measured with a food thermometer.
  • Cook all poultry to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer.

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