Outdoor Cooking Food Safety

— Written By Zach Troutman and last updated by
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Prepare as much as you can in your kitchen:

One of the biggest concerns with outdoor cooking is ensuring the food is handled to prevent cross contamination. Most people are much less comfortable cooking outside compared to traditional methods and that makes it easy to forget important things we regularly do for food safety. One of the biggest concerns is handling food in a way that prevents cross contamination of raw products with cooked and ready to eat products. Here are some tips and things to think about while handling food for outdoor cooking:

  • Open meat and poultry inside where you have access to a sink for hand washing
  • Make it easy to transfer to the grill or outdoor cooktop by placing it on a platter and using tongs
  • Clean and sanitize used tongs and platters before using with cooked foods
    • Best sanitizer is 1 tablespoon of no scent bleach per 1 gallon warm (not hot) water
    • Wash with soap, rinse with warm water, sanitize with above solution, and let air dry
    • Air drying is important! Contact time of the sanitizer counts air dry time.
  • Make sure to not reuse marinades that were in contact with raw meat and poultry after the product is cooked

Additional tips:

  • Clean your grill with a wire brush and make sure no loose wires remain on grill grate
  • Use a thermometer to ensure meat and poultry are safe to consume
    • Easiest and most reliable to use is a digital, instant read thermometer
    • Poultry and ANY stuffed meat – 165 degrees F for 15 seconds
    • Ground, mechanically tenderized or injected meats – 160 degrees for instant kill
    • Whole cuts of beef (steak), pork and fish – 145 degrees F for 15 seconds
  • Keep meat and poultry and other foods separate
    • Prepare your foods according to their minimum required temperature for safety.
    • Use separate grills or grill areas for meats or poultry and vegetables
  • Refrigerate leftovers immediately
    • On days hotter than 90 degrees refrigerate within 2 hours after cooking
    • On cooler days refrigerate within 4 hours after cooking

For more information about outdoor cooking or any food safety question, please contact Zach Troutman, Family and Consumer Sciences agent for N.C. Cooperative Extension, Lincoln County Center: 704-736-8461.