Food Safety for Memorial Day Party Hosting

Hosting a successful Memorial Day party can be a big project, especially when it’s the first outdoor gathering of the season. Between choosing the right recipes, planning fun activities, and pulling outdoor furniture out of storage, you might forget to roll out food safety.

Food illnesses increase during the summer – not only because bacteria multiply faster in warmer temperatures – but preparing food outdoors makes safe food handling more challenging.

Remembering the proper food safety principles and procedures is the key. With this quick refresher on food safety for Memorial Day, your party is sure to be a success!


About Memorial Day

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day to remember those who served and died in our country’s armed forces. It’s also considered by many as the first weekend of summer. What better way to remember – and celebrate – than gathering friends and family together for a BBQ?

Memorial Day weekend has always been the official kick-off to summer and nothing beats getting friends together for an outdoor party to celebrate the warm weather and vacation season.

It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to be fun and food safe!

Bacteria Danger Zone

One of the critical factors in food safety is controlling temperature. Bacteria grows very slowly below 40°F, multiply rapidly between 40°F and 140°F, and are destroyed above 140°F.

Food Safety Steps: Clean – Separate – Cook – Chill

Food poisoning peaks in the summer months when warmer temperatures cause foodborne germs to flourish. Follow these steps for a safe and enjoyable grilling season:

Clean: Make sure to pack clean paper towels, water, and soap for cleaning surfaces and your hands. Disposable moist towelettes also work well.

Separate: Use clean plates. Likewise, don’t put foods eaten raw on the same platter that held raw meat or poultry. Any harmful bacteria present in the raw meat juices could contaminate them.

Cook: Always use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of burgers, steaks, chicken and foods containing meat, poultry and egg dishes.

  • Hamburgers, sausages and other ground meats should reach 160°F (71°C).
  • All poultry should reach a minimum temperature of 165°F (74°C).
  • Whole cuts of pork, lamb, veal and beef should be cooked to 145°F (63°C) as measured by a food thermometer placed in the thickest part of the meat, and allowed to rest for three minutes before eating.
  • Fish should be cooked to 145°F (63°C).
  • Cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly.

Chill: Place leftovers in shallow containers and store them in a cooler immediately. Discard food left in the Danger Zone for more than two hours. When the outside temperature is 90°F or above this time reduces to just one hour.


Keys to Successful Grilling

  • Fire up the grill early! A preheated grill will reduce the risk of sticking and will burn off remnants of charred food from previous grilling.
  • Reduce grill sticking. Brushing the grill with a little oil will help to reduce sticking.
  • Controlling heat is key. Most grills have hot and cold spots. You should use the “zones” to your advantage.
    • Hot zones are good for searing, charring, preventing food from sticking, and cooking items quickly.
    • Cool zones are good for imparting smokey flavor.
  • Let food cook. Leave food alone until it releases from the grill. Turning often reduces proper charring and prevents those beautiful grill marks.
  • Grill marks with the 2 o’clock–10 o’clock method. Angle the food initially at the 2 o’clock position, then flip and rotate it to the 10 o’clock position – to get a proper char cross hatch.

Consider Food Allergies

Taking food allergies and intolerances into consideration is part of being a good host. If guests have any known food allergies, you have to take extra precautions.

Take a look at the ingredients in seasonings, marinades and barbeque sauces. If any of the ingredients seem risky, set aside a tin foil-wrapped portion for the grill intended for anyone with food allergies.

Grilling Fire Safety Tips

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) offers grill safely tips to prevent fires:

Remember, the best part of a Memorial Day party is getting together, so just always play it food safe and you know your friends and family will have a great time!