5 Tips for Safe Summer Grilling and Picnics

By Rachael Bieschke

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The majority of Americans (nearly 70 percent) grill outdoors during the summer while more than 40 percent do so year round. This national pastime is necessary to cook up what amounts for many as the very epitome of summer – grilled burgers, brats, corn on the cob, salmon, steak, BBQ ribs and whatever else you and your family desire.

You certainly don’t want your summer grilling sidelined by a bout of food poisoning, of course, which is why the five simple tips that follow are essential. Read them and commit them to memory to have a grilling season with no unwelcome surprises.

1. Stop Washing Your Chicken

Many people wash chicken prior to cooking it, but not only is this unnecessary, it’s dangerous. Washing your chicken can splash contaminated water droplets onto your skin, work surfaces, clothing, and cooking equipment. The UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) now recommends skipping this step altogether. According to FSA chief executive Catherine Brown:

“Although people tend to follow recommended practice when handling poultry, such as washing hands after touching raw chicken and making sure it is thoroughly cooked, our research has found that washing raw chicken is also common practice (that may not lead to the desired outcome).”

2. Be Careful With Homemade Mayo (Commercial Mayo Might Actually Reduce Spoilage)

Homemade mayo is risky on a hot summer day because the raw egg yolks called for in traditional recipes may easily spoil. This isn’t the case for commercial mayo, which use pasteurized egg yolks combined with oil, vinegar, lemon juice and salt.

Those latter ingredients make the mayo acidic and “preservative like,” which is why a surprising study from the Food Research Institute of the University of Wisconsin found that using mayonnaise in salads might help prevent spoilage.

3. Wash Your Hands to Avoid Cross Contamination

This is one of the biggest sources of food contamination: handling raw food and then cooked foods without adequately washing your hands in between. If you’re not near a sink, use waterless cleaners and also keep a spray bottle of water mixed with one tablespoon of bleach to clean surfaces and utensils.

4. Check Your Meat’s Temperature

Gas grills should be heated at least 10 minutes prior to cooking (15 minutes for electric grills), and then use a meat thermometer to be sure your meat is properly cooked. Temperatures should reach:

  • 160 degrees F for ground beef
  • 150 degrees F for steaks and roasts
  • 165 degrees F for poultry
  • 165 degrees F for hot dogs
  • 145 degrees F for fish (or until opaque)
  • 145 degrees F for shrimp, lobster or crab (shell should turn red and flesh opaque)

 5. Refrigerate Leftovers Within One Hour

This is important to prevent spoilage, especially when it’s warm outside. If you can’t get to a fridge, store leftovers in an ice-filled cooler.


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