Grilling and Food Safety
Cooking outdoors was once considered strictly a summer activity, but now more than half of Americans say they are cooking outdoors year-round. Whether the snow is falling, or the sun is shining, it’s important to follow food safety guidelines to prevent harmful bacteria from multiplying and causing foodborne illness when cooking outdoors. Use these simple guidelines for grilling food safely.
From the Store: Home First
When shopping, buy cold food like meat and poultry last, right before checking out. Separate raw meat and poultry from other food in your shopping cart. To guard against cross-contamination — which can happen when raw meat or poultry juices drip onto other food — put packages of raw meat and poultry into plastic bags.
Plan to drive directly home from the grocery store. You may want to take a cooler with ice for perishables. Always refrigerate perishable food within 2 hours. Refrigerate within 1 hour when the temperature is above 90 °F.
At home, place meat and poultry in the refrigerator immediately. Freeze poultry and ground meat that won’t be used in 1 or 2 days; freeze other meat within 4 to 5 days.
Completely thaw meat and poultry before grilling so it cooks more evenly. Use the refrigerator for slow, safe thawing or thaw sealed packages in cold water. You can microwave to defrost if the food will be placed immediately on the grill.
A marinade is a savory, acidic sauce in which a food is soaked to enrich its flavor or to tenderize it.
Most recipes for marinating meat and poultry recommend anywhere from six to 24 hours. It is safe to keep the food in the marinade longer, but after two days it is possible that the marinade can start to break down the fibers of the meat, causing it to become mushy. Always marinate meat and poultry in the refrigerator, not on the counter.
If some of the marinade is to be used as a sauce on the cooked food, reserve a portion of the marinade before putting raw meat and poultry in it.
Boil the used marinade if you want to brush it on the meat or poultry while it's grilling. Whenever marinade used on raw meat or poultry is to be reused, make sure to let it come to a boil for a few minutes to destroy any harmful bacteria. Then store the marinade in shallow containers in the refrigerator for later use.
When carrying food to another location, keep it cold to minimize bacterial growth. Use an insulated cooler with sufficient ice or ice packs to keep the food at 40 °F or below. Pack food right from the refrigerator into the cooler immediately before leaving home.
Keep Cold Food Cold
Keep meat and poultry refrigerated until ready to use. Only take out the meat and poultry that will immediately be placed on the grill.
When using a cooler, keep it out of the direct sun by placing it in the shade or shelter. Avoid opening the lid too often, which lets cold air out and warm air in. Pack beverages in one cooler and perishables in a separate cooler.
Store raw meat and poultry in well-sealed packages in the bottom of the cooler underneath other food items. This will help to avoid cross-contamination. If poultry juice leaks onto other meats, then that meat needs to be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 F.
Keep Everything Clean
Be sure there are plenty of clean utensils and platters. To prevent foodborne illness, don’t use the same platter and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry. Harmful bacteria present in raw meat and poultry and their juices can contaminate safely cooked food.
If you’re eating away from home, find out if there’s a source of clean water. If not, bring water for food preparation, washing hands, surfaces and utensils. Otherwise, pack clean cloths, alcohol-based moist towelettes and hand sanitizer. Make sure sanitizers have at least 60% alcohol content.
Precooking food partially in the microwave, oven, or stove is a good way of reducing grilling time. Just make sure that the food goes immediately on the preheated grill to complete cooking.
Cook food to a safe minimum internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria. Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often browns very fast on the outside. Use a food thermometer to be sure the food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature. Cook beef, pork, veal, and lamb (steaks, roasts and chops) to 145°F and allow to rest for 3 minutes. Hamburgers made of ground beef, pork, veal, and lamb should reach 160°F. All poultry (including ground) should reach a minimum of 165 °F.
NEVER partially grill meat or poultry and finish cooking later.
|Whole Poultry||165 °F|
|Poultry Breasts||165 °F|
|Ground Poultry||165 °F|
|Hamburgers, Beef||160 °F|
|Beef, Pork, Veal, Lamb
(steaks, roasts, and chops)
|Medium Rare: 145°F and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes
|All Cuts of Pork||160°F|
When reheating fully cooked meats like hot dogs, grill to 165 °F or until steaming hot.
Keep Hot Food Hot
After cooking meat and poultry on the grill, keep it hot until served -- at 140 °F or warmer.
Keep cooked meats hot by setting them to the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals where they could overcook. At home, the cooked meat can be kept hot in an oven set at approximately 200 °F, in a chafing dish or slow cooker, or on a warming tray.
Serving the Food
When taking food off the grill, use a clean platter. Don’t put cooked food on the same platter that held raw meat or poultry. Any harmful bacteria present in the raw meat juices could contaminate safely cooked food. In hot weather (above 90 °F), food should never sit out for more than 1 hour.
Refrigerate any leftovers promptly in shallow containers. Discard any food left out more than 2 hours (1 hour if temperatures are above 90 °F).
REMEMBER! Always refrigerate perishable food within 2 hours. Refrigerate within 1 hour when the temperature is above 90 °F.
Smoking is cooking food indirectly in the presence of a fire. It can be done in a covered grill if a pan of water is placed beneath the meat on the grill. Meats also can be smoked in a “smoker,” which is an outdoor cooker especially designed for smoking foods. Smoking is done much more slowly than grilling, so less tender meats benefit from this method, and a natural smoke flavoring permeates the meat. A thermometer is needed to monitor the air temperature in the smoker or grill to be sure the heat stays between 225 and 300 °F throughout the cooking process.”
Use a food thermometer to be sure the food has reached a safe internal temperature.
Pit roasting is cooking meat in a large, level hole dug in the earth. A hardwood fire is built in the pit, requiring wood equal to about 2 1/2 times the volume of the pit. The hardwood is allowed to burn until the wood reduces and the pit is half filled with burning coals. This can require 4 to 6 hours burning time.
Cooking may require 10 to 12 hours or more and is difficult to estimate. A food thermometer must be used to determine the meat’s safety and doneness. There are many variables such as outdoor temperature, the size and thickness of the meat, and how fast the coals are cooking.