Keep Foodborne Illness Off Your Cookout Menu - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on May 19, 2015

Keep Foodborne Illness Off Your Cookout Menu

To avoid foodborne illness, hot foods should be kept at or above 140 degrees and cold food should be kept at or below 40 degrees.

To avoid foodborne illness, hot foods should be
kept at or above 140º F and
cold food should be kept at or below 40º F.

Nothing says warm weather is here to stay like cooking dinner on a grill. Barbecues and picnics are staples of spring and summer, when the weather is so nice you don’t want to miss a second of it. But, as delicious as barbecue can be, grilling season presents a food safety challenge.

Americans consume millions of hamburgers and countless tubs of potato salad, coleslaw and more with friends and family throughout spring and summer. While the risk of food poisoning may be higher, there are steps you can take to prevent turning a delicious meal into a foodborne illness nightmare.

The first and most important thing you should do before preparing any food is wash your hands. You should also wash your hands throughout the meal prep with soap and water, especially after you use the bathroom, after handling raw food, and before you eat.

One of the reasons grilling season poses a greater risk of foodborne illness is because cross-contamination is more likely – that’s when food, kitchen tools or surfaces become contaminated from raw food products.

Preventing cross-contamination, if you’re diligent, is easy. First, always keep raw food away from cooked food. That’s because fully-cooked food can become contaminated if it touches raw foods or drippings from raw foods. Don’t use a plate or utensils for cooked food that raw food was previously on until it’s been washed in hot, soapy water.

If you’re marinating, make sure you marinate the food in the fridge, not out on the counter at room temperature – warmer temperatures allows bacteria in food to multiply faster. This is also the case for thawing frozen meat. You may think defrosting meat at room temperature will allow it to thaw faster, but you should keep it in the fridge to thaw to prevent bacteria from multiplying.

If you want to use some of the marinade as a sauce on the food after it’s cooked, make sure you set some of it aside before it comes in contact with raw food. Don’t reuse any marinade that is used on raw meat.

When it comes to cooking your meal, make sure it is cooked thoroughly in order to kill any harmful bacteria. Using a food thermometer, a hamburger should be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit and chicken should be at least 165 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, make sure your burgers are brown all the way through, not pink.

If you have friends and family over for dinner, you may get caught up in socializing after dinner while leftovers sit out. However, this can promote food becoming contaminated. Food shouldn’t be left sitting out of your cooler or off of the grill for more than two hours. And you shouldn’t leave food out for more than one hour when the temperature spikes above 90 degrees outside – doing so can cause bacteria to grow.

Does that seem like too much to remember? Let’s keep it simple – hot food should be kept hot and cold food should be kept cold. Hot foods should be kept at or above 140 degrees. And cold food should be kept at or below 40 degrees.

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