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Food Safety for Home Cooks

Grilling Out, Tailgating and Picnics

Use special care when cooking outdoors:

  • People eating and tailgatingIf you’re heading for a picnic or event, prepare as much food as you can at home, where you have access to good refrigeration. Bring along only the foods you think you will need.
  • Wash your hands often with warm to hot soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food (especially raw foods), using the bathroom, smoking, or blowing your nose. Use single-service paper towels to dry your hands.
  • Always marinate food in the refrigerator. Never re-use the marinade sauce on cooked food.
  • When grilling, separate, don’t cross-contaminate:
    • Separate raw and cooked/ready-to-eat foods.
    • Separate utensils, platters and cutting boards used for raw foods (chicken, beef, pork) and cooked/ready-to-eat foods.
    • Separate unlike raw foods such as chicken and beef from one another.
    • Do not use the same cooler for raw and cooked items or ready-to-eat products in storage.
    • Do not use ice for beverages from a cooler used to store raw meats or other foods.
  • Carry plenty of extra utensils and plates along.
  • Pack plenty of extra ice or freezer packs. A full cooler maintains its cold temperatures longer than one that is partially filled.
  • Use a separate cooler to hold hot foods such as fried chicken. Heat a brick in the oven to 350° F, wrap it in a towel (to protect the cooler) and put it in the bottom of the cooler. Your cooler is now a hot holding unit.
  • Keep the cooler out of direct sunlight.
  • When transporting food or storing it, either keep your hot food hot (130° F or above) or keep it really cool (40° F or below) along with your cold dishes like coleslaw and potato salad.
  • Before transporting or storing cooked food in tightly closed containers, cool it down to 40° F in an ice bath or the fridge. If the food is bulky or in a deep pan, break it into smaller portions to reduce the amount of time it takes to chill it.
  • Cook meat properly!
    • Use a metal-stem food thermometer with a range of 0° F to 220° F (available at most retail stores) to make sure cooked food reaches a safe internal temperature.
    • Fully cook hamburgers to an internal temperature of 160° F, until all traces of pink are gone and any juices from the meat are clear.
    • Cook veal or pork to an internal temperature of at least 155° F.
    • Cook large cuts of beef such as roasts and steaks to 155° F for medium rare or 160° F for medium. It is safe to eat steaks rare provided the exterior is seared to an external temperature of 155° F on a hot grill.
    • Cook ground poultry (chicken or turkey) and whole poultry to an internal temperature of at least 165° F.
    • Cook whole fish fillets to a minimum internal temperature of 145° F. Cooked fish should look opaque and flake easily
  • Cook whole eggs and egg products (including liquid, frozen and dry eggs, and any food containing eggs or egg products) so that all parts of the food are heated to 160° F. If you combine eggs with meat or poultry, make sure to cook the food to the higher temperatures required for meat and poultry.
  • When taking foods off the grill, never put cooked food items back on the same plate that held raw food (unless it has been washed with hot, soapy water first).
  • Serve hot foods right off the grill if possible.
  • In hot weather, never let food sit out for more than one hour — put it back in on ice or in the refrigerator.
  • If you take leftovers home, properly wrap and freeze deli meats that won't be eaten within two to four days.
  • If in doubt, throw it out!