For the Grill of It


Nothing says summer quite like a barbecue. Cooking over an open fire, spending time with friends and family, and enjoying the long sunny days are some of the best parts of grilling. Food safety is an important consideration, especially when picnicking and grilling. Warm temperatures are the perfect breeding ground of food-borne illnesses. Keeping food safe to eat is easy if you follow the guidelines below.

At the Store

  • Select meats at the end of your shopping trip so they don't warm up in your cart while you do the rest of your shopping. Warm meat is a dangerous breeding ground for bacteria.

  • Keep uncooked meat separate from prepared ready-to-eat foods. Raw meat should be bagged or packed separately to avoid cross-contamination.

  • Store the meat in a cooler with ice packs to keep it a safe temperature if you are not going home immediately following your grocery shopping.


  • Keep all meat refrigerated at 40° Fahrenheit or below.

  • Use poultry within 1-2 days of purchase and other meats within five days.

  • If you do not plan on eating the meat within a few days of purchase, meat should be frozen. Freeze meat in heavy-duty plastic wrap, aluminum foil, freezer paper or in freezer bags. The meat will remain safe to eat indefinitely if it is stored at 0° Fahrenheit, but it will lose quality over time.


  • Always cook meat thoroughly to at least the minimum recommended temperature.

  • Never partially grill meat and finish it later. Keep meat refrigerated until you are ready to cook.

  • Keep hot food hot. Cooked foods should be kept warm at a minimum of 140° Fahrenheit.

Additional Tips

  • Don't cross-contaminate. Do not use utensils or dished that touched raw meat to serve cooked food until it has been washed thoroughly with soap and hot water.

  • Leftover meat should be refrigerated promptly.

  • Cooked meat may be stored safely at 40° Fahrenheit or below in the refrigerator for up to four days, and in the freezer for up to four months without losing quality.

Serve meat at safe temperatures with this guide

Serve meat at safe temperatures with this guide

Stay out of the danger zone!

What is the Danger Zone? The USDA defines the danger zone for food to be temperatures between 40° and 140° Fahrenheit. Foods kept at these temperatures can allow bacteria to flourish, and foods can become unsafe to consume. This is why it's essential to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.

All food should be kept at safe temperatures until you are ready to serve and eat them. Cold foods should be kept in the refrigerator on in an ice-filled cooler. Hot foods, like meat, can be kept covered in the oven at 200° before serving or in the grill away from the heat source to keep them warm but not overcook them. Be sure that meats are covered to prevent them from drying out.

Cooked meats should be checked for temperature with an internal thermometer probe. The color of the meat will not always indicate whether or not it's been cooked properly. Always cook meat to the proper safe temperature before eating to avoid food-borne illnesses.

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