A grill is one of the best ways to cook summer dinners and have outdoor parties. However, food poisoning peaks in the summer months when warmer temperatures cause foodborne bacteria to flourish.
Foodborne bacteria grows fastest at temperatures of 90 – 110 °F during the summer months. Warmer temperatures and higher humidity are ideal for bacterial growth
Furthermore, a grill can also be a means to transmit bacteria if care is not taken with how food is properly separated and handled.
So whatever the occasion, it’s important to follow food safety guidelines to prevent harmful bacteria from multiplying and causing foodborne illness.
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Steps to Grill Food Safely
Follow these steps for a food safe and enjoyable summer grilling season:
Wash your hands with soap before and after handling raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Wash work surfaces, utensils, and the grill before and after cooking.
Keep meat, poultry, and seafood refrigerated until ready to grill. When transporting, keep below 40°F in an insulated cooler.
When shopping, pick up meat, poultry, and seafood last, right before checkout. Separate them from other food in your shopping cart and grocery bags. To guard against cross-contamination, put packages of raw meat and poultry into individual plastic bags.
Throw out marinades and sauces that have touched raw meat juices, which can spread germs to cooked foods. Use clean utensils and a clean plate to remove cooked meat from the grill.
Use a moist cloth or paper towel to clean the grill surface before cooking. If you use a wire bristle brush, thoroughly inspect the grill’s surface before cooking. Wire bristles from grill cleaning brushes may dislodge and stick into food on the grill.
Use a food thermometer to ensure meat is cooked hot enough to kill harmful germs. When smoking, keep temperatures inside the smoker at 225°F to 300°F to keep meat a safe temperature while it cooks.
- 145°F – whole cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and veal (stand-time of 3 minutes at this temperature)
- 145°F – fish
- 160°F – hamburgers and other ground beef
- 165°F – all poultry and pre-cooked meats, like hot dogs
- Smoking: 250°F – 300°F – inside smoke
- After Grilling: 140°F or warmer – until it’s served
Divide leftovers into small portions and place in covered, shallow containers. Put in freezer or fridge within two hours of cooking (one hour if above 90°F outside).
Does Grilling Pose a Cancer Risk?
Some studies suggest there may be a cancer risk related to eating food cooked by high-heat cooking techniques as grilling, frying, and broiling. Based on present research findings, eating moderate amounts of grilled meats like fish, meat, and poultry cooked — without charring — to a safe temperature does not pose a problem.
To prevent charring, remove visible fat that can cause a flare-up. Precook meat in the microwave immediately before placing it on the grill to release some of the juices that can drop on coals. Cook food in the center of the grill and move coals to the side to prevent fat and juices from dripping on them. Cut charred portions off the meat.
Additional BBQ Food Safety Resources
- FoodSafety.gov – BBQ+A: Answers to Your Most Common Barbeque Questions
- FoodKeeper App
- FoodSafety.gov – Grilling Food Safety 101
- CDC – BBQ IQ — Get Smart. Grill Safely.
- CDC Grilling Food Safety Infographic (PDF)
- Clean: Wash Hands and Surfaces Often
- Recent recalls and alerts
- Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures