June 2022

· 3 min read

Bring Your Backyard BBQs Back: 8 Safety Tips for Summer Food

Safety starts at home — smart tips for firing up the grill and inviting friends and family into your backyard for a picnic.
A group of friends enjoying a barbecue party together - Bring the Backyard BBQs Back: 8 Safety Tips for Summer Food | NSF

With summer here, it’s time to start heating up the grill and inviting friends and family over for some backyard barbecuing.

Summer picnics and backyard parties are tons of fun, but in warm weather, it’s important to be particularly careful about handling food safely so you and your family don’t get sick. The heat can be an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.

To help protect your family and guests from foodborne illnesses during the summer months, our NSF experts offered these eight tips for a safer backyard BBQ:

  1. 1

    Stay Cool

    Keep your perishable foods — brats, hamburgers, potato salad — in individual containers, and keep them cold at the bottom of the cooler (with ice packs on top) or in the fridge until you’re ready to pop them on the grill or serve them. It’s best to keep meats in separate coolers.

  2. 2

    Chill Out

    Keep bottled water, soft drinks and beer in a separate cooler from your fresh and ready-to-eat foods. Try not to open the cooler too often, to keep the cold in.

  3. 3

    Drive Up

    If you’re a guest and bringing food to the bash, store your coolers in the passenger area instead of the trunk so the air conditioner can keep them cool.

  4. 4

    Picnic Primer

    Cooking food in advance creates more opportunities for bacteria to grow. Be sure to reheat precooked foods to at least 165° F (74° C) before serving. Use an NSF-certified thermometer.

  5. 5

    Scrub Up

    Wash your hands with soap and water, scrubbing for at least 20 seconds, before eating or handling food. If there’s no source of clean water, bring soap, water and paper towels or use disposable wipes or a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

  6. 6

    Debunking Defrosting

    The best ways to safely thaw meat are in the refrigerator overnight, under cold running water or in the microwave before grilling. It’s not a good idea to leave raw meat, chicken or any perishable frozen food at room temperature to thaw.

  7. 7

    Getting Your Grill on Safely

    Measures to help ensure that your food reaches the picnic table safely include:

    • Get the grill ready. Scrub your grill from top to bottom, inside and out. Also, clean utensils and cutting boards.
    • Marinate safely. If you’re using the marinade as a sauce on the cooked food, reserve a portion separately before adding the raw meat, poultry or seafood. Don’t reuse marinade.
    • Cook food thoroughly. When it’s time to cook the food, have your food thermometer ready.
    • Keep “ready” food hot. Grilled food can be kept hot until it’s served by moving it to the side of the grill rack, just away from the coals. This keeps it warm but prevents overcooking.
    • Separate plates. Don’t use the same plate you used to marinate raw meat, poultry or seafood.

  8. 8

    Just Trash It

    Make sure to toss out perishable foods that have been left out for longer than one hour.

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