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Published on August 21, 2013

Summer Cookout Safety

August 21, 2013

One of the best things about summer is eating outdoors. Tailgating, picnics, potlucks, and camping are all fun ways to spend time outside with friends and family, but food poisoning definitely isn't.  Remember to take some easy food safety precautions. 

Start with a Clean Slate

Make sure everything your food comes into contact with is clean. This includes the cooler, grill, utensils and plates, and hands! Wash your hands before preparing food, after handling raw meat, and again before eating. Bring hand sanitizer or some anti-bacterial wipes if you’ll be somewhere without the ability to handwash with soap and water.

Be Careful with Raw Meat

Raw meat has bacteria which can contaminate the rest of your food. When transporting raw meat, make sure it’s sealed to prevent leaking onto foods that may not be cooked later. Thaw the meat in advance and keep it cold in a cooler. Do not thaw it in the sun. Only remove as much meat from the cooler as can be cooked at once. Don’t partially cook meat to finish later. Do not reuse marinade unless it’s been boiled, and don’t pour used marinade over cooked meat. Use different cutting boards, utensils and plates to handle raw and cooked meats. 

Check the Temperature

When transporting foods, keep them at fridge temperature. Use a cooler packed with ice to keep food below 40⁰F. Cook all meat thoroughly:

  • 145⁰F for fresh fish, beef, lamb or pork,
  • 160⁰F for ground meat,
  • 165⁰F for all poultry.

A thermometer is the only way to know whether it’s cooked! 

Be Wary of Foods Left in the Danger Zone

The “danger zone” is the temperature range where bacteria grow best. Food sitting out between 40⁰F-140⁰F longer than 2 hours may not be safe to eat. If it’s hotter than 90⁰F, it may be unsafe to eat even after just 1 hour. This is especially true for meat and foods made with dairy and eggs (including mayonnaise-based salads, like potato or tuna salad). Cool any leftover food to 40⁰F as quickly as you can.


Michael Ann Kelly, MS, RD
Licensed Dietitian and Nutritionist


Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics,, accessed July 8, 2013.

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