Tips for safer outdoor grilling this summer

Outdoor grilling is a popular activity in Wisconsin’s “warm” summer months. However, summer is also the peak season for foodborne illnesses. Follow these safe thawing and grilling tips to keep your family safe while enjoying cookouts all season long.

Before preparing your meal, make sure you are starting with a clean workspace, and remember to wash your hands before and after handling food.

Safe thawing techniques

Dealing with a frozen block of meat while trying to put a meal together is never fun. It is ideal to plan ahead and place the meat in the refrigerator at least one day before you want to use it. This is the safest method of thawing because food can stay at a constant cold temperature.

If you forget to take the meat out ahead, you can use two other safe options.

One method involves thawing the packaged meat under cold running tap water. This will take about 30 minutes per pound. Keep the meat in a leak-proof package to pre- vent bacteria from get- ting into the food. The quickest way to thaw is to use the microwave. Follow the instructions from the company when using the microwave to thaw foods. It is important to immediately cook the meat when using these thawing methods.

Food that is left out is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. Never thaw foods in the garage, basement, on the kitchen counter, or outdoors. These methods will leave food unsafe to eat.

Food-safe grilling

Marinate foods in the refrigerator instead of on the counter or outdoors. If you plan to serve the marinade as a sauce or dip with the cooked item, make sure to reserve a portion for later use before adding raw meat. Excess marinade should never be served after it was in contact with raw meat. When grilling, cook meats to a safe internal temperature. Place a food thermometer in the thickest part of the meat, not touching the bone or fat. Here are the internal temperature recommendations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and ServSafe:

  • Poultry: 165°F
  • Ground beef, pork, veal or lamb: 155°F to 160°F
  • Fresh whole cuts of Beef/Veal/Pork: 145°F
  • Fish: 145°F or until separates easily with fork
  • Shrimp, lobster and crabs: cook until pearly and opaque
  • Clams, oysters and mussels: until shells open during cooking

Never place cooked meat on a plate that originally held raw meat. It is always best to have clean utensils on hand for use once the meat is cooked.

Adding a 3-minute rest time to whole cuts of meat ensures the proper internal temperatures to destroy harmful bacteria. Leaving cookout and potluck foods sit out too long invites bacterial growth. You generally have two hours to consume perishable foods. However, on a summer day above 90°F, avoid letting food sit out for more than one hour. For more information, visit


Elissa Halla is an AHEC intern at the Sheboygan County Division of Public Health.