Whether you enjoy grilling out year round or just on special occasions, it's important to keep in mind basic food safety practices to help make sure that foodborne illness doesn't spoil your grilled dinner.

Start With a Clean Kitchen

According to an NSF germ study, the kitchen sponge and kitchen sink are the germiest places in the home, and these very items are typically used many times while cooking and cleaning.

Avoid spreading germs and bacteria by placing wet sponges in the microwave for two minutes once per day and replacing them often. Using towels and rags that can be sanitized in the clothes washer's hot water cycle is also a good option. The sides and bottoms of sinks and countertops should be washed and disinfected once or twice per week with a disinfecting cleaner or bleach solution (5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) bleach per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water). Spray the surface and allow it to sit for one minute. Rinse thoroughly and allow to air dry.

Defrost Foods Safely

Bring perishable foods straight home from the store and place them in the refrigerator or freezer. Frozen items can be thawed either in the microwave (if cooking immediately) or overnight in the refrigerator. Never leave food out at room temperature to thaw.

Most frozen meats can be cooked from the frozen state, but will usually take up to 50 percent longer to cook.

Practice Proper Marinating

If marinating food, marinate in a refrigerator overnight and dispose of any leftover marinade that has touched raw meat. If you need some marinade for basting, set aside a small amount of prepared marinade in a separate dish before adding raw food.

Keep Hot Foods Hot and Cold Foods Cold

Since bacteria grow the quickest when temperatures are between 40º  and 140º F, keep perishable foods refrigerated or iced until just before placing on a preheated grill or serving, and keep hot foods above 140º F once fully cooked.

Avoid Cross Contamination

Bacteria can easily spread from one food to the next via dripping juices, hands or utensils. Don't use the same utensils and plates for raw and cooked foods, and always remember to wash your hands before preparing and consuming food.

Cook With a Thermometer, Not Your Eyes

Always use a certified food thermometer to make sure foods are cooked to the proper minimum internal temperature:

  • Whole or ground poultry: 165°F
  • Ground meats (other than poultry): 160°F
  • Fresh fin fish: 145°F
  • Fresh whole (not ground) pork, beef, veal: 145°F with a three-minute rest time

Rest time is the time the meat needs to stand without carving once it’s reached a minimum safe cooking temperature.