Grill Like a Pro & Stay Safe This Summer

Cooking outdoors was once only a summer activity shared with family and friends. Now more than half of Americans say they are cooking outdoors year round. Did you know that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of food-borne diseases, according to the CDC? Use these simple guidelines for grilling food safely.

From the Store

  • When shopping, buy cold food like meat and poultry last; right before checkout.
  • 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 on 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 or within 1 hour if 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 within 1 or 2 days; freeze other meat within 4 to 5 days.

Thaw Safely

  • 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.
  • For quicker thawing, you can defrost the food in a microwave if will be placed immediately on the grill.


  • Marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter.
  • Poultry and cubed meat or stew meat can be marinated up to 2 days.
  • Beef, veal, pork, and lamb roasts, chops, and steaks may be marinated up to 5 days.
  • 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.


  • 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 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.


  • Precooking food partially in the microwave, oven, or stove is a good way of reducing grilling time.
  • Just make sure that the food is immediately placed on the preheated grill to complete cooking.

Cook Thoroughly

  • 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.
  • NEVER partially grill meat or poultry and finish cooking later.

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.


  • Refrigerate any leftovers promptly in shallow containers.
  • Discard any food left out more than 2 hours and 1 hour if temperatures are above 90°F.

Healthy Grilling Tip

Processed and breaded meats such as hot dogs, bratwursts, burgers, and chicken are typical barbeque entrees. Burgers are often made with high-fat ground beef. All of these foods are high in unhealthy saturated fats and calories. The more processed a meat is, the more sodium it has.

  • Opt for leaner options such as: grilled chicken or turkey (without the skin),
  • Use burgers made with lean ground turkey or beef (at least 90% lean), or fish.
  • Grill kabobs made with peppers, onions, mushrooms and other vegetables.
  • Veggie and black bean burgers are a great protein alternative with big flavors!