Cookout Safety



by Grace Iberle, RDN, LDN, CHC, CPT

Grilling out is an essential summer activity! It’s a great time to enjoy the beautiful weather, get out and get moving, and catch up with friends and family. Read below for a few tips to keep your barbecues and picnics tasty, healthy, and safe from foodborne illness.

MyPlate recommends filling half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, that doesn’t change when we have a barbecue. Fruits and vegetables will not only add color, variety and flavor, but also vitamins, minerals, and fiber to your meal. Be sure to include them for a balanced plate.

Things to Try:

  • Vegetable Kabobs – Be creative! Try bell peppers, mushrooms, eggplant, cherry tomatoes, and onions – Brush the vegetables with olive oil and spices, grill over medium heat, roughly 12-15 minutes and enjoy!
  • Grilled Fruit for Dessert – Options like pineapple, watermelon, nectarines, peaches are delicious choices. Use low heat and grill until the fruit is hot and slightly golden.

When preparing and grilling meat, fish, and poultry, be sure to separate them from ready-to- eat foods to prevent cross contamination. Choose leaner proteins such as round or loin cuts, leaner ground beef, and remove the skin off poultry before eating. For fish, thick filets like salmon, tuna, and grouper can be grilled directly. Thinner filets, such as tilapia or white fish, should be cooked in a grilling pan or foil. Use a food thermometer to ensure the food is cooked to the proper internal temperature to kill bacteria and prevent foodborne illness. Follow the safe minimum internal temperatures below:

Food Safety Tips:

  • Properly thaw foods in the refrigerator or microwave
  • Marinate foods in the refrigerator and discard any marinade that was in contact with raw meat, fish, poultry
  • Double wrap meat, poultry, and fish in the cooler to prevent juice dripping when transporting to the BBQ site. Use multiple coolers to prevent cross contamination.
  • Be sure to use separate plates, cooking utensils, and cutting boards for raw foods and ready to eat foods.
  • Throw away any food that has been sitting out for over 4 hours (or longer than 1 hour if it’s warmer than 90 degrees F) when cooking on a grill, potential cancer-causing compounds can form. Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) are formed from smoke and Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs) come from the black, charred parts.

To prevent the formation of potential cancer-causing compounds, grill your food with the following methods:

  • Low and Slow—low temperature, longer cooking time
  • Flip Food Frequently to Prevent Crusting
  • Cut Fat and Remove Skin from Meat, Fish, Poultry
  • Avoid Direct Flame—No Charring
  • Marinade Meats for at least 30 minutes before grilling

Enjoy these warm weather days by preparing your meals outdoors, but be sure to keep these food safety tips in mind and build a balanced plate.

Cooking Temperature Chart: USDA

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