Calling All Grillmasters! Avoid Picnic Pitfalls and Barbecue Blunders WIth Simple Home Food Safety Tips

The chance of food poisoning grows significantly when preparing food for outdoor barbecues and picnics. Read on for summertime food safety tips from The American Dietetic Association and ConAgra Foods’ Home Food Safety Program.


When it comes to cooking over an open flame, men hold the spatulas and tongs as the dominant grillers, according the most recent North American barbecue study. As grills across the country heat up for picnics in the park or backyard barbecues, so does the risk of food poisoning, making this the perfect time to remind those at the helm of the grill how to protect themselves and their guests with simple steps from the American Dietetic Association and ConAgra Foods‘ Home Food Safety program.

The Home Food Safety program is dedicated to raising consumer awareness about the seriousness of foodborne illness and providing solutions for easily and safely handling food.

“Expert grillers will want to practice proper food safety habits anywhere food is prepared, not just in your kitchen,” said registered dietitian and ADA Spokesperson Jim White. “Whether it’s a picnic, barbecue or potluck, it’s important to apply the same home food safety techniques to help keep you and your guests safe from foodborne illness.”

This summer and beyond, remain king of the coals by following four simple tips:

1.     Wash your hands often.
2.     Keep raw meats and ready-to-eat foods separate.
3.     Cook to proper temperatures.
4.     Refrigerate promptly to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.

Perfect your outdoor culinary skills, and help keep everyone safe:

  • Soap up the BBQ. Be sure to scrub the grill, outdoor utensils, coolers and other containers with hot soapy water before cooking or packing up your favorite summertime treats.
  • Remember the kitchen sink. Your backyard can become an additional room in your house during the summer months with everything but…the kitchen sink. Devise a plan ahead of time so you are able to wash your hands before, during and after handling foods outside. The best way to wash your hands is in warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds. Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer near your grill or pack moist towelettes in your cooler for those moments when soap and water are not readily available.
  • Avoid dishtowel disaster. A man with an apron on and a dishtowel thrown over his shoulder is often the image of grilling expertise but there is definitely a barbecue blunder in this picture. Using the same dishtowel over and over to wipe your hands and clean up spills at the grill can spread harmful bacteria. Stick to paper towels or wipes to clean up spills and save the dishtowels for drying clean dishes and hands.
  • Separate treats for backyard feasts. Cross-contamination tops the list of food safety concerns during the outdoor grilling season.  Keep raw meats and ready-to-eat foods separate.  Pack extra plates and utensils to handle raw foods and another set for cooked foods, to prevent cross-contamination. Wash utensils in warm, soapy water between uses.
  • Baste for taste. The same rule of separation also applies when marinating meats. Using the same brush to baste both raw and cooked meats is a potentially dangerous pitfall. Always use a separate or just-washed brush to marinate raw and cooked meats, and remember to boil any leftover marinade before using it to season cooked meats.
  • The summer tool of choice: a food thermometer. Forget the lawnmower or Weedwacker and make a food thermometer your go-to tool this summer. Relying on color alone or waiting for the juices to run clear to ensure the doneness of meat is a common barbecue blunder. A food thermometer is the only way to ensure food has been cooked to the proper temperature. Favorites like steak should be cooked to at least 145° F and hamburgers should be cooked to at least 160° F, while chicken should be cooked to at least 165° F.
  • Keep it cool. Stock coolers with plenty of ice and/or ice packs to keep foods at temperatures below 40 degrees F. Put a refrigerator thermometer in your cooler to make sure foods are stored at proper temperatures. Transport foods in the air-conditioned back seat of your car instead of the hot trunk. Once at your outdoor dining destination, try to keep foods in the shade and out to of direct sunlight.
  • Remember the two-or one-hour rule. As temperatures go up, the amount of time perishable foods can remain out of refrigeration goes down. While foods typically follow the two-hour rule, in hot weather (90 degrees F or above) this time is cut in half to one hour. At your next outdoor event, remember to keep foods on ice: fill a kiddy pool or oversized cooler with ice and drop in sealed containers of favorites such as potato salad and dips. Consider setting a kitchen timer or the alarm on your cell phone to remind you when food should be refrigerated. Also keep a refrigerator thermometer on hand to make sure foods stay chilled below 40 degrees F.

“In summer months, the grill becomes even more important than the stove or oven for meal preparation,” said Brian Wolf, Hebrew National brand manager, ConAgra Foods. “From traditional favorites like hot dogs to side dishes and desserts, grilling is a great way to add flavor to all types of food.”

A downloadable chart of safe minimum internal temperatures for all your barbecue and picnic favorites can be found at, along with more tips on how to remain the king of your barbecue domain.

The American Dietetic Association and ConAgra Foods’ Home Food Safety program is dedicated to raising consumer awareness about the seriousness of foodborne illness and providing solutions for easily and safely handling food in their own kitchens. More information can be found at