Summer is the season of endless fun—camping under starry skies, lazy afternoons by the lake, and relaxing naps in the hammock. It's also the perfect time to sharpen your grilling skills. Done right, grilled food can be the highlight of your summer gatherings. But if you’re not careful, it can turn into a recipe for disaster—food poisoning!

Here’s how to ensure your BBQs are remembered for all the right reasons.

Keep Foods Cool

According to the CDC, bacteria thrive in warm weather, so keeping your food at the right temperature is crucial. Raw meat, poultry, and seafood should be kept chilled until they hit the grill. Use your fridge or an insulated cooler to keep these items below 40°F. Remember, the “Danger Zone” for food is between 40°F and 140°F, where bacteria can multiply rapidly.

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Cook Meat Thoroughly

Nobody wants to be remembered as the host who undercooked the chicken. Use a meat thermometer to ensure your meat is cooked to a safe internal temperature. Here are some guidelines:

  • Poultry: 165°F
  • Ground meats: 160°F
  • Steaks and roasts: 145°F (let rest for 3 minutes)

Avoid Cross-Contamination

It’s tempting to reuse that tray that held your raw burgers for the cooked ones, but resist the urge. The Community Care Physicians website points out that raw and cooked foods should always be kept separate to prevent cross-contamination. Use clean plates, utensils, and cutting boards, and wash them thoroughly between uses.

Clean Hands and Produce

Good hygiene is non-negotiable. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before handling food. Rinse fruits and vegetables under running water before serving, even if you plan to peel them.

Trust Your Instincts

If it looks suspicious, don’t touch it. Aunt Sheila’s pasta salad might be a family favorite, but after sitting in the sun for four hours, it’s best to pass. If in doubt, throw it out.

Understanding Food Poisoning

Consuming contaminated food or water is the main cause of food poisoning. It affects an estimated 48 million Americans each year, causing symptoms ranging from mild discomfort to severe illness. By following these safety tips, you can help ensure your summer cookouts are safe and enjoyable for everyone.

So, grab those tongs and fire up the grill, but keep these tips in mind to make sure your summer BBQs are both delicious and safe. Happy grilling!

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