Cookout and Grilling Safety Tips

— Written By and last updated by Abi Reid
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Charcoal grill with flame

Everyone loves a good cookout! Everyone loves the taste of grilled food on a nice summer day, but everyone doesn’t know how to carry out their grilling sessions safely. Food Safety is always concerning especially since we serve food to people who in most cases are our friends and loved ones. In regards to food safety, the first priority is protecting people.

Safety Tip #1

Control the flames. Adhering to fire safety by keeping the fire inside the grill is the prime goal. You do this by keeping your grill in an open space free of trees and housing structures that would be above the grill. Try to keep the grill free of fat droppings and other items that could cause flames to leap up and char food. Upon finishing your grilling session, make sure your gas is turned off or your coals/wood are fully snuffed out.

Safety Tip #2

Wash your hands before you start handling food with warm soapy water. Make sure to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds which is the equivalent of singing Happy Birthday twice (not the Stevie version, lol!).

Safety Tip #3

Clean your grill grates. Most grills sit outside with or without a grill cover and may collect debris along with droppings from the previous grill session. Clean the grill before and after according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If the instructions are unclear you can find a grill cleaner at the store. You can also use a natural cleaning solution such as white vinegar, baking soda, and steel wool to remove leftover food bits and other debris.

Safety Tip #4

Clean utensils, plates, and other dishes with hot soapy water. You can keep utensils clean and reduce the risk of cross-contamination by appointing certain utensils and dishes a purpose/assignment. You can purpose some for raw foods and another set for cooked and ready-to-eat foods.

Safety Tip #5

Cook foods to a proper internal temperature. This ensures that pathogens are reduced to a level that is considered “safe”. The key to getting a good indication of whether a food is done is not color or juices but the internal temperature. Please use a food thermometer to ensure you cook foods to the following temperatures. When holding food for serving keep hot foods hot at 135ºF and cold food cold at 41ºF. Refrigerate food if you will not be serving it immediately to keep it cold and keep warm foods by using the warm function in the oven, stove, and crockpots/Instantpots.

  • 135°F: Commercially processed, fully cooked foods such as hotdogs
  • 145ºF: Whole cuts of beef, pork, veal, lamb, and fish.
  • 155ºF: Ground/tenderized meats
  • 165ºF: Poultry (ground or whole)
  • *Opaque in Color*: Shrimp, crab, crawfish, scallops, and lobster.

Safety Tip #6

Cooling and storing foods properly. Make sure to cool hot food down to 41ºF within at least six hours. Cool food from 135ºF to 70ºF within two hours. Cool from 70ºF to 41ºF within four hours. Store food in a refrigerator that is 41ºF or below.

Fun Tip #1

Get the whole family involved in grilling. Let children help with tasks that they find fun and that they are able to do. Have them measure food out. Children can be excellent runners in order to take food to and from the grill.

Fun Tip #2

Mix it up and try grilling veggies and fruits on the grill such as pineapple, peaches, zucchini, yellow squash, etc. This is a great way to get a few servings of fruits or veggies in your diet.

Fun Tip #3

Set up the environment for a fun time of being outside with the griller. Set up games such as cornhole, ring toss, spike ball, or horseshoes. You can also set up outside dining. Make sure to use safe insect/mosquito repellent.

If you would like more resources, please check out the following.

Food Safety Page

Grilling Food Safely