Summer Essential Food Safety Guide for Your Next BBQ

August 12, 2016

The following blog originally ran on the GMA blog HERE.

By: Samantha Cooper, Manager, Food Safety and Quality Assurance and Jeanette Litschewski, Intern, Science Program Management

 Nothing smells of summer quite like the scent of a grilled burger and veggies wafting across a picnic table of watermelon slices, red-mouthed Popsicle smiles, and sunburnt noses. Just like SPF protection for our shoulders, bug spray protection for our skin, and sunglasses for our eyes, it is important to make sure that all foods at your next BBQ are safe from potential hazards that the summer heat can bring.


The CDC estimates that one in six Americans will get sick from food poisoning this year alone. GMA is a proud supporter of happy and healthy summer days for all and hopes that these helpful reminders for keeping food safe will ensure a BBQ full of smiles and laughter, safe and delicious food, and happy times with loved ones!


Keeping hands, surfaces, and utensils clean is an essential step towards avoiding the transfer of harmful bacteria to your food. Make sure to pack extra hand sanitizer and moist towelettes for outdoor preparation and cleaning. You might even consider leaving hand sanitizer and paper towels at the front of the table for others to disinfect hands before beginning to eat.

As always, it is important to wash hands before preparing food for consumption, but it is also essential to wash hands before and after handling raw meat and poultry to prevent the transfer of harmful bacteria.


Keep raw meats and poultry separated from cooked food and other surfaces. Use separate utensils and plates for raw and cooked foods. Discard any marinades or sauces that have come in contact with raw meat juices to avoid cross contamination.

When transferring food in a cooler to the BBQ, consider securely wrapping and separating all raw meat from other items to prevent immediate contact and to avoid raw meat juice from leaking into the cooler. You may even want to consider bringing a smaller cooler to be dedicated for holding only to-be-cooked foods.


Cook all food to the recommended internal temperature, using a food thermometer to ensure that the necessary temperature is met. It is important to use a thermometer for meats as it tends to brown quickly, leaving the insides undercooked with an appearance of being fully cooked. The USDA recommends cooking all raw beef, pork, lamb, and veal (steaks, roasts and chops) to 145°F and an allowed rest of at least three minutes before carving and consuming. Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 160°F. Cook all poultry to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F.

Is it important to reheat fully cooked meats, such as the traditional hotdog? Yes! Grill to 165°F or until steaming hot.


Be sure you have plenty of ice! When transporting food to your grilling location, keep food at 40°F or below by using an insulated cooler with sufficient ice or ice packs. Chilling is also a concern when shopping for and transporting ingredients. The temperature in your car can climb exponentially in the summer heat, so plan to purchase cold food, like meat and poultry, last before driving directly home from the store. Be sure to handle leftovers appropriately by chilling promptly in shallow containers. Discard any food left out for more than two hours, or after one hour if outdoor temperatures are over 90°F.

For more information on safe grilling tips, please visit the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s Grill it Safe Campaign.