Outdoor grilling is a fun way to cook food for family and friends. Although we often think about grilling outdoors as a summertime activity, many people cook outdoors all year long. To keep your cookouts safe and fun, follow these simple steps before, during and after grilling to ensure a clean workspace and safe food preparation.
Before you begin
Thaw safely. The best way to thaw is by placing the frozen meat, fish, poultry or seafood in the refrigerator. This lets the food thaw completely and cook evenly. Marinate foods safely to add flavor, not germs. A good rule is one-third cup of marinade per pound of meat or poultry. Marinate up to two hours if adding flavor. For tenderizing, marinate up to 24 hours. Marinate only in the refrigerator — never on the counter top.
Transport foods safely
When taking raw meat, poultry, fish or seafood to another location, keep it cold (40 degrees or colder) with ice or ice packs. Place foods in the cooler right before leaving and take only what you plan to cook and eat that day; keep coolers in the shade or out of direct sunlight to keep the temperature at 40 degrees or colder.
Clean before, during and after cooking
Keeping hands, cooking area and cooking utensils clean can reduce the spread of harmful germs to food. When cooking away from home, e.g. park or campsite, make sure there is plenty of clean water for washing hands and utensils. If there is not a source of clean water, bring your own.
Cook food thoroughly
Cook foods to a safe internal temperature so germs are killed. Meat and poultry cooked on a grill can brown very quickly, making it look like it is done. However, the only way to tell if a food is cooked enough is to measure the internal temperature with a food thermometer. The chart below shows the minimum internal temperature that a food needs to be in order to be eaten safely:
Food Minimum internal temp.
Beef, pork, veal,
lamb steaks, roasts 160 degrees F (medium)
145 degrees F (med. rare)
Hamburgers 160 degrees F
Poultry 165 degrees F
Hot dogs (already cooked) 165 degrees F
Keep hot foods hot, cold foods cold
Cooked foods like meat, poultry, fish or seafood should be eaten or refrigerated right away. Never let them sit out for more than two hours. When the weather is warm (90 degrees or above), cooked foods should be eaten or stored within one hour. Foods left out for more than two hours (one hour if it is 90 degrees or above) should be thrown away.
For additional information about outdoor cooking, contact the Denton County Extension Office at 940-434-8812
MAGGIE JOVER is the family and consumer sciences extension agent with Texas AgriLife Extension. She can be reached at 940-349-2882.