What You Need to Know Before Your Next Summer Cookout

Shot of a hand flipping meat on a barbecue
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The hot and sunny days of summer mean more meals and gatherings al fresco, which also means an increased risk of food poisoning. In fact, food poisoning is twice as likely to occur in the summer as in colder months, which makes proper food safety precautions even more important this time of year. Before you fire up the grill for your next cookout, here’s everything you need to know to ensure a safe and fun experience for everyone.


When preparing foods ahead of time, avoid cross-contamination and unsafe foodborne bacterial growth. Meats, poultry and seafood should never be thawed or marinated on the counter or in the sink, but rather on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, and away from fresh and ready-to-eat foods. If possible, prepare vegetables and salads before handling raw meats and use clean and separate cutting boards and surface areas.

If transporting raw meats, poultry or seafood, wrap them tightly and store them in a separate insulated cooler on ice. Store the cooler in the shade until you are ready to cook. Keep prepared salads and perishable foods refrigerated or on ice until just before serving.


When it is time to fire up the grill, cook raw vegetables first to avoid the chance of cross-contamination or cook them away from raw meats, poultry and seafood with separate utensils. All meats should be cooked to proper internal temperatures, following the guidelines below. Download the free Is My Food Safe? app for a handy reference.

Whole Cuts of Beef, Pork, Lamb, and Fish: 145°F

Ground Meats: 160°F

Poultry and Hot Dogs: 165°F

Remember to use clean serving trays and utensils for cooked meats. All foods must be refrigerated within two hours, and only one hour if temperatures reach 90°F or above.


Any leftover foods should be refrigerated immediately or discarded if left out for longer than two hours (one hour if 90 degree or above). Leftovers should be reheated to 165°F.


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Emily Cooper
Emily Cooper, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist based in central New Jersey. Read her blog, Sinful Nutrition, and connect with her on Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram.

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