Skip to main content

Grilling and Summer Food Safety

Grilling and Summer Food Safety

Summer is officially here! And if you haven't already gotten your grill out, you should consider doing so.

Grilling is a great way to keep the kitchen cool and enjoy the many wonderful foods summer has to offer. Whether you are grilling meat, poultry, seafood or vegetables it is important to keep food safety in the forefront. To help you and your loved ones stay safe during the summer grilling season, remember to follow these basic food safety guidelines.

Thaw Safely

Keep meat, poultry, and seafood cold until you are ready to use it. At room temperature, harmful bacteria responsible for foodborne related illnesses can grow amazingly quick. Thus, leaving these items out in sinks or on countertops provides the perfect opportunity for bacteria to quickly multiple reaching dangerous levels.

When the weather is warm it is even more important to keep these items cool. If the temperature is 90˚F or higher, the amount of time needed for harmful bacteria to reach unsafe levels can be as little as one hour.

Planning ahead is essential when it comes to thawing meat, poultry, or seafood. Thaw items in the refrigerator. Generally speaking items should thaw within 12-24 hrs. This of course depends upon the type and size of the items being thawed.

When thawing, place meat, poultry, or seafood onto a plate or shallow tray and place on the lowest shelf in the refrigerator. This will help prevent contamination of other foods, by catching any juices that may leak, or drip onto other items in the refrigerator.

If thawing these items in the microwave, it is important to cook immediately after thawing. Microwaves heat unevenly. Thus some areas of the food may actually begin to cook during the thawing process, while other areas are simply warmed. With the uneven heating, a portion of the food may reach optimal temperatures in which bacteria can grow and multiply quickly. If these foods are not cooked promptly, then bacteria can reach high enough levels making food unsafe to eat.


A marinade is a savory, usually acidic sauce in which meat, poultry, seafood, or vegetables are soaked to enrich its flavor or to tenderize it. When marinating always keep foods refrigerated during the marinating process, to prevent the risk of foodborne related illness.

How long can you marinate?

  • For beef, pork, lamb and veal; chops, roasts, and steaks can be marinated for up to five days.
  • For poultry or cubed meats; items can be marinated for up to two days.

Warning: Do not reuse marinade sauces on cooked foods once they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry. Instead, set a portion of the marinade aside to be used later once the food has been cooked. If however you wish to reuse marinade sauces that have been in contact with raw meat or poultry, you must first bring it to a full boil to destroy any harmful bacteria before it can be reused.


Believe it or not, color is NOT an indicator of doneness when it comes to meat and poultry. This is because meat may turn brown before it reaches a high enough temperature to destroy the harmful bacterial responsible for foodborne related illnesses. In order to ensure these foods are cooked to a high enough temperature, use a food thermometer to check for doneness.

  • A minimum internal temperature of 145 °F must be reached for all chops, roasts and steaks (beef, pork, lamb and veal).
  • Ground beef, lamb, pork and veal should be cooked to an internal temperature of 155 °F.
  • All types of poultry should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F.

Once minimum internal temperatures have been reached, they must be held for at least 15 seconds to ensure proper doneness.

Warning: Never partially grill meat or poultry with the plan to finish cooking later. This creates an ideal environment for the growth of harmful bacteria.

Summer is a great time to be outdoors. And grilling is a quick and easy way to cook your favorite summertime foods, without heating up the kitchen. Following these simple food safety guidelines can help keep you and your loved ones safe throughout the summer grilling season.

Today's post was written by Diane Reinhold, MPH, MS, RDN, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator serving Jo Daviess, Stephenson & Winnebago Counties. She specializes in chronic disease prevention, food preservation and worksite wellness

Photo Source: