7 Overlooked BBQ Mistakes That Can Make You Sick


Avoid These Commonly Overlooked BBQ Mistakes That Make You and Your Guests Sick

Having a good old-fashioned BBQ can be lots of fun and makes summer cooking easy. However, there are cookout mistakes that can make you and your guests sick, so keep in mind these safety tips to avoid foodborne illness this summer.

Food Safety Tips for Barbecues

  1. Wash Hands Often
    Wash your hands before beginning any food preparation and keep washing them often, especially if you touch raw meat. Germs linger in many places, so something seemingly harmless like touching a doorknob then touching ready-to-eat foods like fruit, chips or the veggies and dip can lead to foodborne illness. Properly wash hands with soap and warm running water. If you hum “Happy Birthday To You” while washing (approximately one minute), you will know that you’ve washed long enough to remove most harmful germs from your hands.
  2. Avoid Cross-Contamination Between Raw Meats and Ready-To-Eat Foods
    To prevent harmful food bacteria from spreading, bring lots of clean utensils to your BBQ. Cross-contamination happens when you use a cutting board or utensil for raw meat and then use that same utensil for something that is eaten without cooking, such as fresh fruit. It can also happen when the juice from meat gets into other food items.

    Another important safety tip is to wash melons prior to cutting; this avoids cutting the dirt and germs on the rind into the melon.

  3. Keep Foods at the Proper Temperature Before, During and After the BBQ
    Correct food storage begins once you leave the grocery store. It is important to safely handle raw foods to avoid food poisoning. Food bacteria grows fastest in the food danger zone, which is between 40°F and 140°F. So keep cold foods colder than this and hot foods hotter than this. Bringing a cooler to the store can help you keep foods cold if you have a lengthy trip home.

    When getting ready for your meal, don’t thaw meat on the counter! Meat should be thawed in the refrigerator or allow extra time to cook meat from the frozen state. Quickly cool any leftovers you plan to keep for later. Here’s some more tips on how to properly defrost and store frozen meats.

  4. Clean Your Grill Properly to BBQ Safely
    Research has shown that dirty grills contain a lot of yucky bacteria. Food particles left on the grill can spoil, leaving behind bacteria that can make you sick. Keep yourself healthy by cleaning your grill racks properly. First, brush off food debris with a wire grill brush. Then remove the racks and wash with warm soapy water. Replace the racks, then heat the grill up and brush with a little oil to prevent food from sticking.
  5. Cook Foods to the Safe Food Temperature
    Be sure to use a meat thermometer to properly cook meat when grilling. According to Foodsafety.gov, to destroy food bacteria that can make you sick, the correct minimum cooking temperature for meat and poultry is as follows:

    • Ground meat and meat mixtures: 160°F.
    • Fresh beef, veal or lamb roasts, steaks or chops: 145°F, then let rest 3 minutes.
    • Poultry: 165°F.
    • Fresh pork: 145°F, then let rest 3 minutes.
    • Fish: 145°F or until flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork
  6. Keep Foods Properly Covered To Avoid Food Contamination
    Once you have safely prepared your food, keep it covered up to protect it from flies and ants. Use containers with tight fitting lids to serve food. Plastic wrap can also work as long as it is tightly sealed along the edges. These tips also help keep food safe while transporting or storing food.
  7. Throw Foods Away at the Proper Times
    Real food doesn’t last forever. Even foods that are cooked and stored properly spoil rather fast. Foods that have been sitting out at air or room temperature should be thrown away after 2 hours. If food is sitting out at temperatures over 90°F, throw it away after 1 hour because germs grow rapidly at this temperature. To make food last longer, keep cold foods packed on ice and hot foods in food warmers, such as a slow cooker.

Keep these food safety tips in mind this summer to keep you and your guests healthy. For more information on safe food handling, go to foodsafety.gov.

Jennifer M. Wood, MS, RD

Jennifer M Wood, MS, RDN is registered dietitian nutritionist and successful food and nutrition consultant in Southeastern Minnesota. As the founder of a nation-wide gourmet food company, Wood wrote Jenny’s Country Kitchen…recipes for making homemade a little easier! (2003), which is a timeless collection of make-ahead, freeze-ahead and pantry-stocking recipes and time saving tips to help busy families put nutritious food on table. Wood graduated with a pre-med bachelors degree in nutritional science in 2001, completed her dietetic internship in 2007 and went on to complete a master’s degree in food and nutrition in 2011.

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