Food safety tips for grilling

Who doesn’t love a juicy steak fresh from the grill? The start of grilling season has begun, and now is a good time to revisit some basic food safety rules to keep you and your family safe and healthy.


Food safety starts at the grocery store. Buy cold foods like meat and poultry last, right before checkout. After checkout, drive straight home and refrigerate meat and poultry immediately. This ensures that the meat stays cold enough.  And while you’re shopping, pick up a food thermometer if you don’t have one.  This handy tool is the only way to ensure foods are cooked to the proper internal temperature on the grill.


It’s important to thaw meat and poultry before grilling.  Thaw frozen meats in the refrigerator—never at room temperature on the counter or in the sink.  If short on time, thaw meat safely under a stream of cold running water, or in the microwave, provided it will be cooked immediately.


Marinades are a great way to add flavor and tenderness to your meat.  Always marinate meats in the refrigerator, not on the counter, where harmful bacteria can grow.  If planning to use some of the marinade as a sauce after the food is cooked, reserve part of it before putting in raw meat and poultry.

Avoid cross-contamination

When you go out to grill, make sure to have plenty of clean utensils and platters.  Cooked food from the grill should never touch platters and utensils used for raw foods. Harmful bacteria from the raw meat and their juices can transfer from the raw to cooked food, causing foodborne illness.

Internal temperatures

Make sure to thoroughly cook meat or poultry.  Using a meat thermometer, check that the proper temperature is reached. Here are the safe minimum internal temperatures for various meats:

  • Cook all whole cuts of meat, including beef, veal, lamb, and pork to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Allow meat to rest three minutes before carving or consuming.
  • All ground meats, including hamburgers made of ground beef should reach 160 degrees Fahrenheit. The color of the meat does not accurately indicate doneness.
  • All poultry, including whole and ground chicken and turkey, should reach a minimum 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

After grilling

Keep grilled meat and poultry hot until served – at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer. If there are any leftovers, refrigerate quickly.  Throw away any food left out for more than two hours—or one hour if you are outdoors and the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Finally, keep it clean. Wash your hands, and keep your grill and utensils clean. Use a sturdy grill brush to clean the grill grates once you’ve finished cooking. Wash utensils in hot soapy water and wash surfaces.

Following these food safety rules will help to ensure that your grilled meal is remembered for its flavor, not for causing foodborne illness. For more information, check out the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service website.


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