Food Safety Tips for Outdoor Dining

Reviewed by Taylor Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN
grilling with friends

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As temperatures rise, so do the risks of food poisoning. Keep outdoor dining safe by following a few easy steps:

  • Bust Bacteria. With many families planning to use their grill year-round, halt harmful bacteria in its tracks. Scrub the grill with hot, soapy water before cooking up your outdoor favorites.
  • Soap Up Frequently. Wash hands before, during and after food preparation. Pack moist towelettes or hand sanitizer in your cooler for those moments when soap and water are not available.
  • Prep That Party Food. Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator or microwave, not on the countertop or outside at the party. Marinate foods in the refrigerator, and don't reuse marinade used on raw meat or poultry unless it's boiled first.
  • Keep Coolers Cool. All perishable foods should be refrigerated promptly below 40°F, so keep coolers stocked with plenty of ice. Freeze bottles of water or juice boxes for a refreshing treat that also will help keep foods packed around them cool. Drop a refrigerator thermometer into the cooler to make sure foods are stored properly. Transport the cooler in the air-conditioned back seat of a car instead of a hot trunk.
  • In-Between Clean. Make it a habit to clean out coolers with soap and water between uses.
  • Different Plates for Grilling Greats. Keep raw meats, poultry, seafood and eggs and ready-to-eat foods separate; ditto for the utensils used to handle each. Pack extra color-coded plates and utensils to help prevent cross-contamination. Use different spoons and forks to taste, stir and serve.
  • Stay in Tune with Temps. Favorite summer foods can be harmful if not fully cooked. Use a food thermometer to make sure grilling favorites such as hamburgers are cooked to a minimum of 160°F, chicken to 165°F and hot dogs to 160°F. Never partially grill meat or poultry to finish cooking later.
  • Escape Expiration. Pay particular attention to expiration dates on packaging, especially for raw meats.
  • Be Careful When It's Hot, Hot, Hot. To prevent growth of harmful bacteria, don’t leave food outside in hot weather (90°F or above) for more than one hour. Throw away all perishable foods that have been unrefrigerated for an hour.

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