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Grilling and Food Safety

Grilling and Food Safety

Cooking outdoors was once considered strictly a summer activity, but now more than half of Americans say they are cooking outdoors year-round. it’s important to follow food safety guidelines to prevent harmful bacteria from multiplying and causing foodborne illness when cooking outdoors. Use these simple guidelines for grilling food safely.



A marinade is a savory, acidic sauce in which a food is soaked to enrich its flavor or to tenderize it.

Most recipes for marinating meat and poultry recommend anywhere from six to 24 hours. It is safe to keep the food in the marinade longer, but after two days it is possible that the marinade can start to break down the fibers of the meat, causing it to become mushy. Always marinate meat and poultry in the refrigerator, not on the counter.

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.

Boil the used marinade if you want to brush it on the meat or poultry while it’s grilling. Whenever marinade used on raw meat or poultry is to be reused, make sure to let it come to a boil for a few minutes to destroy any harmful bacteria. Then store the marinade in shallow containers in the refrigerator for later use.

Keep Cold Food Cold

Keep meat and poultry refrigerated until ready to use. Only take out the meat and poultry that will immediately be placed on the grill.

When using a cooler, keep it out of the direct sun by placing it in the shade or shelter. Avoid opening the lid too often, which lets cold air out and warm air in. Pack beverages in one cooler and perishables in a separate cooler.

Store raw meat and poultry in well-sealed packages in the bottom of the cooler underneath other food items. This will help to avoid cross-contamination. If poultry juice leaks onto other meats, then that meat needs to be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 F.

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 goes immediately 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. Cook beef, pork, veal, and lamb (steaks, roasts and chops) to 145°F and allow to rest for 3 minutes. Hamburgers made of ground beef, pork, veal, and lamb should reach 160°F. All poultry (including ground) should reach a minimum of 165 °F.

NEVER partially grill meat or poultry and finish cooking later.

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Source: USDA