Nebraska Living E-Newsletter

Summer Grilling and Food Safety

Courtesy of UNL Panhandle Research & Extension Center Link: 

Summer not only brings out barbecue grills, but also bacteria. Bacteria love the hot, humid days of summer, grow faster than at any other time of the year, and can cause foodborne illness. Summer barbecues are a great way to enjoy the outdoors and each other’s company. Keep your barbecues with family and friends healthy and safe this summer with the following tips. 

Barbecue Basics and Food Safety 

Keep It Clean: Wash hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food. If you’re eating where there’s no source of clean water, bring water, soap, and paper towels or have disposable wipes or hand sanitizer available. 

Marinate Food in the Refrigerator: Don’t marinate on the counter—marinate in the refrigerator. If you want to use marinade as a sauce on cooked food, save a separate portion in the refrigerator. Do not reuse marinade that contacted raw meat, poultry, or seafood on cooked food unless you bring it to a boil first. 

Keep Raw Food Separate: Keep your barbecue safe by keeping raw meat, poultry, and seafood in a separate cooler or securely wrapped at the bottom of a cooler. Don’t use a plate or utensils that previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood for anything else unless you wash them first in hot, soapy water. Have a clean platter and utensils ready at grill-side for serving 

Seeing Isn’t Believing: Many assume that if a hamburger is brown in the middle, it’s done. Looking only at the color and texture of food is not enough—you must use a food thermometer to be sure. According to USDA research, one out of every four hamburgers turn brown before reaching a safe internal temperature. The only safe way to know if meat, poultry, and egg dishes are “done” is to use a food thermometer. When a hamburger is cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit as measured with a food thermometer, it is both safe and delicious! 

Keep Hot Food Hot and Cold Food Cold: Keep hot food at 140 F or above until served. Keep cooked meats hot by setting them to the side of the grill or wrapped well in an insulated container. Keep cold food at 40 F or below until served. Keep cold perishable food in a cooler until serving time, out of direct sunlight, and avoid opening the lid often. 

Temperature and Time: Keep your barbecues with family and friends safe this summer by remembering that the time perishable food can be left outside the refrigerator or freezer drops from two hours to one hour in temperatures above 90 F. 

For your next barbecue, have a food thermometer, several coolers, ice or frozen gel packs, water, soap and paper towels, enough plates and utensils to keep raw and cooked foods separate, and foil or other wrap for leftovers. • Go to for more information on a variety of food, nutrition, and health topics. • The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline number is 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or go to the website at 

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