Summer is peak grilling season, as millions of Americans debate the merits of charcoal versus gas and one marinade over another. One thing everyone can agree on is the importance of keeping food safe while grilling. The CDC offers these suggestions to avoid food issues during your next cookout.

Separate

When shopping, pick up meat, chicken and other poultry, and seafood last, right before checkout. Separate them from other food in your shopping cart and grocery bags. To protect against cross-contamination, put packages of raw meat and poultry into individual plastic bags.

Chill

Keep meat, poultry, and seafood refrigerated until they’re ready to grill. When transporting uncooked meat to a party, keep them at 40°F or below in an insulated cooler.

Thaw and Marinate

Harmful germs can multiply very quickly at room temperature. Thaw food safely in the refrigerator, cold water or microwave. Always marinate food in the refrigerator, no matter what kind of marinade you’re using. Never thaw or marinade meat, poultry, or seafood on the counter.

Clean Before You Cook

Wash your hands with soap before and after handling raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Wash external work surfaces, utensils, and the grill before and after cooking.

Check Your Grill and Tools

Use a damp cloth or paper towel to clean the grill surface before cooking. If you use a wire bristle brush, thoroughly inspect the grill’s surface before cooking. Wire bristles from grill cleaning brushes may dislodge and become stuck into food on the grill.

Don’t Cross-Contaminate

Throw out marinades and sauces that have touched raw meat juices, which can spread germs to cooked foods. Use clean utensils and a clean plate to remove cooked meat from the grill.

Cook Thoroughly

Use a food thermometer to ensure meat is cooked hot enough to kill all harmful germs. When smoking, keep temperatures inside the smoker at 225°F to 300°F to keep meat at a safe temperature while it cooks.

Safe Meat Temperatures for Grilling

  • 145°F—whole cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and veal (allow meat to rest for three minutes before carving or eating)
  • 145°F—fish
  • 160°F—hamburgers and other ground beef
  • 165°F—all poultry and pre-cooked meats, like hot dogs

After Grilling 

  • 140°F or warmer, until it’s served

Refrigerate

Divide leftovers into small portions and place in covered, shallow containers. Refrigerate or freeze within two hours of cooking, one hour if temperatures are above 90°F outside.