Summertime Picnic and Grilling Safety
Keep outdoor dining from turning into a disaster.
Summer is the season for picnicking and grilling on the patio. Don’t let the hidden dangers of eating al fresco — such as a foodborne illness — spoil your day. Learn how to prevent common mishaps with these safety tips.
During Food Prep
- Wash your hands. Keeping your hands clean between handling raw meat and ready-to-eat foods helps combat the spread of harmful bacteria. If running water isn’t available where you picnic, use antibacterial hand wipes or hand sanitizer before handling food.
- Defrost safely. Don’t defrost or marinate meat on the counter — bacteria multiply much faster between 40°F and 140°F. Instead plan ahead and defrost or marinate meat in the refrigerator one to two days in advance.
- Drink responsibly. If you enjoy having a drink while you grill, remember: Alcohol can quickly dehydrate you on a hot day. Pace yourself and have a glass of water between each drink.
In the Cooler
- Keep foods separate. Avoid cross-contamination by packing raw meats and poultry in a separate cooler than other picnic items. If you don’t have separate coolers, tightly wrap raw meats to keep their juices from leaking.
- Chill out. Keep perishable food in the cooler at a temperature of 40°F or lower. Pack everything tightly together. Surround food on all sides with ice or frozen gel packs, and place the cooler in the shade when you arrive at your picnic site.
On the Grill
- Cook food thoroughly. Bringing a meat thermometer to the picnic site is the best way to check whether grilled meats are completely cooked. Never partially grill food with the intention of finishing it later.
- Don’t crowd the grill. If you overload your grill with food, especially fatty meats, flames can flare up and ignite nearby objects.
- Keep watch. Don’t leave a grill unattended. If you have to step away, appoint someone to watch the grill in your absence.
On the Table
- Don’t reuse marinades. Sauces and marinades used to flavor meat before grilling shouldn’t be served. If you want to serve meat with marinade, set aside a separate portion.
- Watch the clock. To prevent food poisoning, never leave cooked meat off the grill or other perishable items out of the cooler for more than two hours. Throw away any food left out beyond that. If the outside temperature exceeds 90°F, cut that time in half.