4 Do’s and Don’ts for Proper Grilling and Food Safety

A backyard barbecue is a great way to spend time with your loved ones. Follow these four do’s and don’ts to ensure the food you serve is cooked safety and properly.

  • Do: Take the temperatures of all meats

Before you take a hamburger patty or chicken breast off the grill, take its temperature to ensure it’s properly cooked. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, or the side for thinner pieces. The probe should reach the center of the meat, and you’ll want to wait 10 to 20 seconds for an accurate reading.

Meat and poultry should be cooked to the following temperatures before consumption, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA):

  • Beef, pork, lamb, veal, and fish: 145 degrees with a three-minute wait time before serving
  • Ground meats: 160 degrees
  • Poultry: 165 degrees
  • Don’t: Leave food on the grill when it’s finished cooking

Remove food from the grill, and place it onto a clean plate, tray, or platter. Do not place it on a dish that held raw meat or poultry.

Eating overcooked meat and poultry may increase your risk of cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The longer an item cooks and the hotter it gets, the more group of chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) forms in the blackened parts of the meat. In laboratory experiments, HCAs have been found to cause changes in DNA that may increase the risk of cancer.

As a result, it’s best to cook the food to the appropriate temperature and remove it from the grill.

  • Do: Keep everything clean at your barbecue

Cleanliness is your best defense against foodborne illnesses. Be sure your barbecue has lots of clean plates and utensils. You shouldn’t use the same plates and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry. The juices in raw food can contaminate safely cooked food and cause a foodborne illness.

  • Don’t: Cook on a dirty grill

Just as you wouldn’t cook with a dirty skillet, you shouldn’t cook on a dirty grill. The meat, fat, and more left on the grill can create a fire hazard. What’s more, they’re not good for the health of you and your guests. Leaving your grill dirty increases exposure to bacteria that can cause illness. Clean your grill before and after you cook to ensure the delicious food you’re serving doesn’t make anyone sick.

If you have a question about food safety, you can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline. The hotline is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST, with recorded messages available 24 hours a day.