Keep Your Holiday Barbecue Safe

There’s nothing like an outdoor barbecue to celebrate the summer!  Like any time of year, preparing, cooking, and holding foods safely is the only way to prevent food borne illnesses.  Because the weather is warm, and food is often kept outside, there can be even more risk for food spoilage.  Here are a few tips to make your holiday barbecue safe and successful!

  • When shopping, buy perishable foods such as meat and poultry last, right before you check out.
  • Plan to drive directly home from the grocery store. You may want to take a cooler with an ice pack for perishables.  Make sure the perishable foods are refrigerated right away.
  • Completely thaw meat or poultry before grilling so it cooks more evenly.  Make sure that foods are thawed in the refrigerator and not on the counter at room temperature.
  • Have plenty of clean utensils and platters on hand. To prevent cross contamination, don’t use the same platter and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry. Harmful bacteria present in raw food can contaminate cooked food.
  • Grill meat or poultry to a safe minimum internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria.  Take the guesswork out of grilling by using a thermometer and cook to the proper internal temperature:

                Poultry: 165°F

                Ground beef: 160°F

                Steaks, roasts or chops: 145°F

** After cooking meat and poultry on the grill, keep it hot until served — at 140°F or warmer.

  • Keep salads or other cold foods on ice or in the refrigerator right until you are ready to serve them. Don’t allow cold salads to sit out for long periods of time.  Foods that are lukewarm (between 41°F and 140°F) are in the “danger zone” for harmful bacterial growth.

Lastly, a word about the safety of grilled food …

There are studies that suggest a possible cancer risk related to eating food cooked by high-heat.   Eating grilled meats, fish, or poultry cooked to a safe temperature does not appear pose a problem, as long consumption is moderate.  It is most important to prevent grilled food from charring.  This can be done by removing the visible fat that can cause a flare-up on the grill. Try precooking meat in the microwave immediately before placing on the grill.  This will release some of the juices or fat that can drip on coals. If part of the meat becomes charred cut off charred portions off the meat.

A little bit of planning on your part will keep you and your guests’ safe at your next barbecue.

© 2012, Gretchen Scalpi, RD, CDE. Publication rights granted to all venues so long as article and by-line are reprinted intact and all links are made live.

Gretchen Scalpi is a Registered Dietitian,  author, consultant and health coach.  Gretchen has worked one on one with hundreds of clients in her own private nutrition practice since 2002.  If you would like to work with Gretchen as an online coach please visit or call 845-831-7258 to schedule your half hour complimentary wellness coaching session.

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