Prevent foodborne illness

freezer chestPicnics, grilling, camping — summer was made for dining outdoors. But outdoor cooking experiences can also present unique challenges for food safety. Don’t let foodborne illness ruin your summer fun. Follow these safety tips to ensure your summer cookouts go off without a hitch.

Wash your hands and all cooking surfaces and utensils. If you are going to be camping somewhere without safe water, bring your own water and soap. Do not assume fresh water from lakes or streams is safe just because it looks clear — always disinfect water first by bringing to a rolling boil for one minute (longer if camping at high altitudes). You can also use disposable wipes for washing hands and quick cleanup.

Keep perishable food cold. Pack meats and other frozen products directly into a cooler without thawing first to keep them cold longer for picnics and camping trips. Try to pack food that will be cooked later toward the bottom of the cooler. Use a separate cooler for beverages that will be opened more often. Pack coolers as full as possible to help keep items cold, and fill extra space with large blocks of ice or frozen gel packs. Keep coolers out of the sun and covered with a blanket or tarp if possible.

Marinate the right way. To ensure your food is safe, marinate only in a refrigerated environment. Poultry and cubed meat can be marinated for up to two days. Beef, pork, steaks and lamb can be marinated for up to five days. If you plan on using the marinade in cooked food, keep a portion separate from the raw meat to use later. If you do serve marinade you’ve used to marinate the raw meat, it should be boiled first to destroy bacteria.

Cook meat thoroughly. Start by completely thawing meat in a refrigerated environment before grilling. Meat that is not thawed can cook unevenly and be at risk for undercooking. The only way to truly guarantee that your food is properly cooked is by using a food thermometer to measure internal temperature. Meat should be cooked to the following internal temperatures:

  • 145 F — Beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops and roasts.
  • 160 F — Ground beef, pork, lamb and veal.
  • 165 F — All poultry and reheated fully cooked meats like hot dogs.
  • 140 F — Once meat is properly cooked, it should be served or kept above this temperature on the side of the grill until served.

Learn more about food safety and food poisoning in our Health Encyclopedia.