Planning to grill this summer for your next get-together? Be sure to follow these basic food safety tips so you can enjoy the experience to the fullest.


The best part about this warmer weather? Grilling food out in the sunshine! That’s when you can really enhance the flavors of meat, produce, and whatever else you’re cooking.  Not only can you pull off a relaxed, festive pool-side vibe, but the food that comes off the grill is incredibly flavorful.  

However, it’s also important to keep in mind some basic food safety pointers to reduce the chances of developing a foodborne illness or food poisoning.  

Here’s what to pay extra attention to.

1. Store your food properly

When grocery shopping, select any raw meats and eggs at the very end of your grocery run – for temperature control – and separate them from the other items in the grocery cart.  When paying for the groceries, place the raw meats and eggs in separate plastic bags to prevent any juices from contaminating other foods. 

Store the foods in your refrigerator below 40°F, and the foods in your freezer – at or below – 0°F.  Store packages of raw meats in separate plastic bags on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator to prevent juices from coming into contact with other foods – like produce for example.  Check out this handy article for how to safely store meats, eggs, produce, dairy products, and leftovers in the refrigerator. 

In addition to the expiration dates on the packages of fresh meats, a general rule of thumb is that uncooked steaks, chops, and roasts can be refrigerated for 3-5 days when you keep your refrigerator below 40°F – while raw poultry and ground meats can be refrigerated for 1-2 days.  

Cooked steaks, chops, roasts, poultry, and ground meats can generally be stored for 3-4 days in a refrigerator that’s set at below 40°F.  For additional refrigerator shelf life recommendations for different foods, you might like this Keep It Cool: Refrigerator/Freezer Food Storage Chart.  

2. Clean and separate.  

Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after handling food.  Sanitize the work area where you’ll be doing your food prep, and clean your cutting boards and utensils prior to doing food prep.  Separate your cutting boards and utensils for different uses. 

Use a designated cutting board for raw meats, and a different cutting board for produce.  This is where those color-coded cutting boards can come in handy for this very purpose. Designate a plate and utensil for raw meats, and a clean plate and clean utensil for cooked meats.  Separate ready-made foods from raw meats to avoid cross-contamination.    

3. Toss the used marinade or make an extra amount ahead of time – and reserve it.  

When marinating raw meats, it’s really important to marinate the meat in a refrigerator – storing it in a glass or stainless steel container or a plastic zip-top storage bag.  Once it’s time to cook the meat, ditch the marinade since it contains harmful bacteria from the raw meat.

If you’re hell-bent on re-using that marinade, then it’s critical that you boil it to kill the dangerous bacteria.  Another alternative that points out, “If you plan to use some of the marinade as sauce for the cooked food, your best bet is to reserve a portion of the marinade before putting raw meat and poultry in it.”  

4. Safely clean the grill.  

It’s recommended that you clean your grill prior to and after grilling food.  This can reduce the chances of old food bits – from your previous meal – sticking to the food that you grill next. 

If you’re using a grill brush, it’s important to make sure that it’s a good one – versus using one in which the bristles come off easily onto the grill and increase the chances of a bristle sticking to your food.  Depending on the manufacturer’s instructions, you might be able to use a different tool for cleaning your grill, like a bristle-free brush or aluminum foil that you’ve rolled into a ball to scrape off the food from the grill.  If you prefer to use a grill brush, here’s a list of best and worst grill brushes by Consumer Reports.  

5. Cook foods to the proper temperatures.  

It’s important to cook your food to the proper temperatures to reduce the chances of developing food poisoning.  Below are the minimum internal temperature recommendations for the following meats:

  • Fresh poultry – at least 165°F.
  • Ground meats – at least 160°F.
  • Grilled fish and shellfish – at least 145°F
  • Beef, pork, and lamb – at least 145°F  (Just make sure you let these meats rest for at least 3 minutes before digging in – they will continue to cook and moisten while resting).  

The safest way to identify if your food is cooked properly is to use a food thermometer – versus basing this decision on the appearance, smell, etc. of the food.  Here is a great article that explains the differences between a variety of food thermometers, how to properly use a food thermometer, and how to test the temperatures of different cooked foods.  

6. Refrigerate any leftovers quickly

Cool the leftovers in shallow containers, and refrigerate them promptly to avoid the danger zone temperature range of 40°F to 140°F – a range in which bacteria can quickly multiply and contribute to foodborne illnesses.  Discard any food that has been sitting out for two or more hours. If your food is being set out in temperatures of 90°F or higher, it’s recommended that your food is refrigerated within one hour or less.   

The bottom line: practicing food safety as you’re grilling can be easy and worthwhile. Plus, it can increase the chances of feeling both mentally and physically satisfied during and after your meals.  

Happy grilling and eating! 

Adapted from the original article.

Jill Clodfelter-Mason, RDN, CD,  is a private practice dietitian, health coach, food blogger, and owner of Cultivate Joy Nutrition in central Indiana. She assists her  clients with developing a healthier relationship with food and their bodies. Jill’s mission is to help women overcome the ‘shoulds’ that rule their lives, so they can become fully present in celebrating delicious, nourishing foods and reconnecting with who they are – mind, body, and soul. To learn more about Jill, check out her website,, and follow her on Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook @cultivatejoynutrition.