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. Use these simple guidelines for grilling food safely to prevent harmful bacteria from multiplying and causing food-borne illness.
Completely defrost meat and poultry before grilling so it cooks more evenly. Use the refrigerator for slow, safe thawing or thaw sealed packages in cold water. You can microwave defrost if the food will be placed immediately on the grill.
Meat and poultry can be marinated for several hours or days to tenderize or add flavor. Be sure to marinate food 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. However, if the marinade used on raw meat or poultry is to be reused, make sure to let it come to a boil first to destroy any harmful bacteria.
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 the cooler in the coolest part of the car.
4. Keep Cold Food Cold
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 & perishables in a separate cooler.
5. Keep Everything Clean
Be sure there are plenty of clean utensils and platters. To prevent food-borne 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.
6. Cook Thoroughly
Cook food to a safe 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 internal temperature. Whole poultry should reach 180 F; breasts, 170 F. Hamburgers made of ground beef should reach 160 F; ground poultry, 165 F. Beef, veal, and lamb steaks, roasts and chops can be cooked to 145 F. All cuts of pork should reach 160 F. NEVER partially grill meat or poultry and finish cooking later.
7. 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 a warm oven (approximately 200 F), in a chafing dish or slow cooker, or on a warming tray.
8. Serving Safely
When taking food off the grill, use a clean platter. Don’t put cooked food on the same platter that held raw meat or poultry. Any harmful bacteria present in the raw meat juices could contaminate safely cooked food.
9. Safe Smoking
Smoking is done much more slowly than grilling, so less tender meats benefit from this method, and a natural smoke flavoring permeates the meat. The temperature in the smoker should be maintained at 250 F to 300 F for safety. Use a food thermometer to be sure the food has reached a safe internal temperature.
10. Pit Roasting
Cooking may require 10 to 12 hours or more and is difficult to estimate. A meat thermometer must be used to determine the meat’s safety and doneness. There are many variables such as outdoor temperature, the size and thickness of the meat, and how fast the coals are cooking.