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Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Grill it Up Safely

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Grill it Up SafelyJuly is the peak month for grilling and cook outs. Think safety so your good times aren’t spoiled by illness! Summer is the time when you are going on vacation or hanging with the kids, so the last thing you want is to come down with a food borne illness that could have easily have been prevented. Use these simple tips below for grilling safety adapted from the USDA Safe Food Handling Site.

  • Buy cold meat last: When shopping for all the great foods you will have at your cookout be sure to buy your meat and poultry last so that you minimize the time it is left un-refrigerated. Also be sure that after checkout, your meat is separated from all other food and placed in a separate bag. Go straight home from the supermarket to get it back in the fridge ASAP.
  • Thaw safely: If starting with frozen meat, be sure that you are completely thawing your meat before you put it on the grill so that it cooks more evenly. To be safe, take your meat out and thaw it either in cold water or you can defrost it in the microwave for a few minutes.
  • Use an insulated cooler when transporting: Use an insulated cooler with sufficient ice or ice packs to keep the food at 40 °F or below. Be sure you’re separating raw meats from other foods in the cooler.
  • Cook thoroughly: Cook food to a safe minimum internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria. Meat thermometers are fairly inexpensive and would be something beneficial to pick up when you are at the store to be sure your meat is cooked to safe temperatures. Minimum temperatures are:
    • All poultry: 165 °F
    • Ground meats: 160 °F
    • Beef, pork, lamb, and veal (steaks, roasts and chops): 145 °F and allow to rest at least 3 minutes.
    • Use new 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.
    • Leftovers don’t last forever: Refrigerate any leftovers promptly in shallow containers. Discard any food left out more than 2 hours.
    • Keep hot food hot and cold food cold: After cooking meat and poultry on the grill, keep it hot until served — at 140 °F or warmer. As for cold food, be sure to keep meat and poultry refrigerated until ready to use.

Enjoy your summer cookouts and enjoy not just the food but the good times with friends and family!

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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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