Keeping Your Summer Foods Safe

Summer is a great time to cook outside!  Whether you are grilling or packing a picnic, you will get to enjoy the outdoors.  Make your summer meals healthier by taking advantage of all of the locally-grown produce available in the summer -- fresh corn and garden tomatoes, peaches and strawberries, and so much more!

Grilling and picnic meals come with food safety concerns, so follow these four simple rules for safe and healthy summer meals: clean, separate, cook and chill.


  • Use hot, soapy water to wash your hands, utensils, and cutting boards before and after using raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs.
  • Keep raw meats separate from ready-to-eat foods.
  • Always use a separate cutting board for raw and cooked foods.
  • Use clean utensils to take foods from the grill.  Put cooked foods on a clean plate.  A different plate from the one you used to bring the raw meat out to the grill!
  • Be sure to defrost meat completely before grilling; this helps the meat cook more evenly.
  • If you marinate your meat before grilling, keep marinated food in the refrigerator. Make up extra marinate to use later as a sauce on the cooked food -- do not put the left-over marinade on cooked meats unless you boil the marinade first.
  • Grilled pieces of meat that are the same size will cook at the same rate.
  • Use a clean food thermometer to check the internal temperature of foods.  Cook ground beef to at least 160 degrees to kill harmful bacteria.
  • Use plenty of freezer packs or ice in an insulated cooler if you are packing perishables for a picnic.
  • Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods, grilled foods, and leftovers within two hours.
  • Put large amounts of leftovers into small, shallow containers for quick cooling in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • Throw away any perishable food left out for more than two hours.  If it is above 90 degrees, food should be left out for not more than 1 hour.

Food safety actually starts at the grocery store.  Buy raw meats and dairy foods at the end of your shopping trip, right before you check out. Put raw meat packages in plastic bags to keep juices from dripping.  Load your perishable foods in the coolest part of the car and take groceries home right away.  Don't make any other shopping stops after you've bought your groceries, especially in the summer when temperatures inside a car can get well over 100 degrees!  As soon as you get home, put the raw meats and dairy foods in the refrigerator.
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© Eat Smart, Be Fit Maryland!Maira Gall