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Tips for Avoiding Food Poisoning at Summer Time BBQs E-mail
Written by Jeff Behar   
If that second helping of grandma’s famous potato salad doesn’t taste as good as the first time around, you may want to move onto dessert or risk spending much of the evening in the bathroom.

Unfortunately, food safety rules are often forgotten once the food hits the table.

Cookouts don’t have to result in races to the bathroom, though, said Jeff Behar, a personal trainer and nutrition specialist based out of Los Angeles, CA.

Behar suggests these tips for safe, healthy barbecue’s:

  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after you’ve handled raw meat or food.
  • To prevent food borne illness, don't use the same platter and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry. Harmful bacteria present in raw meat and poultry and their juices can contaminate safely cooked food.
  • Don't put cooked food on the same platter that held raw meat or poultry. Any harmful bacteria present in the raw meat juices could contaminate safely cooked food. In hot weather (above 90F), food should never sit out for more than 1 hour.
  • Only use knives and cutting utensils for one thing, either for meat or for vegetables.  Thereafter, the utensils should be thoroughly washed.
  • NEVER place the grilled meat back on the dish or board on which the raw meat was placed, as this has blood and juices from the raw meat.
  • NEVER use knives or dishes that have been used for the raw meat for the grilled meat, too.
  • Clean the grill with hot soapy water before you use it. This prevents sticking, burning and any off-taste from built-up grease.
  • Avoid using the same plate for raw and cooked food.
  • Use a separate brush one for marinating and another for basting cooked meat.
  • Marinade in the refrigerator and discard the marinade immediately after use.
  • Precooking food partially in the microwave, oven, or stove is a good way of reducing grilling time. Just make sure that the food goes immediately on the preheated grill to complete cooking. NEVER partially grill meat or poultry and finish cooking later.
  • Cook thoroughly. Cook food to a safe minimum internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria.  The only way to be sure foods are cooked to a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria is to use an accurate digital instant-read thermometer. Thermometer use to ensure proper cooking temperature is especially important for those who cook or serve ground beef patties to people most at risk for food borne. Those most at risk include young children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems.
  • Beef, veal, and lamb steaks, roasts and chops should be cooked to 145ºF.
  • All cuts of pork should reach 160ºF
  • All poultry should reach a minimum of 165ºF
  • All cuts of pork should be cooked to 160 ºF throughout.
  • Ground meat, because of the grinding process is typically more exposed to harmful pathogens. Hamburgers made of ground beef should reach 160ºF. Color is not a reliable indicator that ground beef patties have been cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria.
  • When reheating fully cooked meats like hot dogs, grill to 165F or until steaming hot.
  • Unless you are in a big hurry or you like for your meat to be dry, do not press on it. You will just be squeezing out all those wonderful juices. Additionally, squeezing the juices on the coals and crating smoke is not healthy.
  • Completely defrost meat and poultry before grilling so it cooks more evenly. Use the refrigerator for slow, safe thawing or thaw sealed packages in cold water. You can microwave to defrost if the food will be placed immediately on the grill.
  • Keep meat and poultry refrigerated until ready to use. Only take out the meat and poultry that will immediately be placed on the grill.
  • Always refrigerate perishable food within 2 hours. Refrigerate within 1 hour when the temperature is above 90F. Discard any food left out more than 2 hours (1 hour if temperatures are above 90F).
  • If you are using coolers to store food prior to cooking, use an insulated cooler with sufficient ice or ice packs to keep the food at 40F or below to minimize bacterial growth. When using a cooler, keep it out of the direct sun by placing it in the shade or shelter. Avoid opening the lid too often, which lets cold air out and warm air in.
  • Marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Discard the marinade immediately after use. If some of the marinade is to be used as a sauce on the cooked food, reserve a portion of the marinade before putting raw meat and poultry in it. However, if the marinade used on raw meat or poultry is to be reused, make sure to let it come to a boil first to destroy any harmful bacteria.
  • Only take the meat out of the refrigerator when the barbecue is ready. If a large portion of meat is to be used, try to take out only the amount that fits on the grill and grill the rest later.


Following all these safety tips can help you have a memorable BBQ for the right reasons; and not because you were sick for several days after thanks to a food borne illness! 

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