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Could Your Next Cookout Make You Sick? Here’s What to Watch For.

Nothing ruins a good backyard barbecue faster than food poisoning! Follow these tips so you don't spoil the fun.

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Top view of friend hands serving food at barbecue garden party - Multiracial people group enjoying grill meal at backyard bbq meeting - Lunch and dinner concept outdoors - Vivid cross processed filter; Shutterstock ID 424465909; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH Cookout food safetyShutterstock / View Apart

You probably know all about common food safety tips, like washing your hands after touching raw chicken (here’s how to do it right) and making sure your meats cook all the way through on the grill. But, there are a few less common ones that could lead to spoiling your food (and the fun!).

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A grilled hot dog with macaroni and cheese on a picnic table; Shutterstock ID 104089265Shutterstock / MSPhotographic

Watch Hot Foods

The leftover hot dog that’s been off the grill for a few hours is just as likely to provoke illness as warm macaroni salad. Only grill up as much food as you need, because any hot foods that dip below 135° F for more than an hour are in the danger zone.

How hot should your foods be from the get-go? Here’s a handy chart.

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Deli-Style Potato SaladTaste of Home

Keep Cold Food Cold

Most of us probably avoid the mayo-laden potato salad when we arrive late to the party, but the same rule applies to other cool foods (like cut fruit and veggies). Keep your cold food below 40° F by storing it on ice (or, toss it after 2 hours).

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Cleaning grillShutterstock / Alexey Stiop

Clean Your Grill

It might seem like those super-high grill temperatures would kill foodborne bacteria, but those pesky microbes have a way of living on. Keep the bad bacteria, mold, and charred food particles away from your edible food by cleaning your grill (learn the best way to clean your grill here!).

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Grilled vegetables on cutting board on dark wooden backgroundShutterstock / Lisovskaya Natalia

Don’t Reuse Platters or Cutting Boards

The easiest way to accidentally contaminate your ready-to-eat foods is by reusing platters or cutting boards. Make sure you wash your knives and cutting boards after they touch raw meats, and grab a new platter before plating up grilled foods.

Here’s how to treat your cutting board right.

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Dinner party, barbecue and roast pork at nightPhoto: Shutterstock/What is Mole Sauce?

Chill out Until You’re Ready

I know you’re probably anxious to get to grilling, but resist the temptation to pull out that platter of marinated meat until the grill is sufficiently preheated. Raw meats will stew in their own juices (especially if they’re sitting in the hot sun), creating a bacterial playground.

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Barbecue chicken on grill with thermometer.; Shutterstock ID 59358397Shutterstock / Jon Beard

Use a Thermometer

That thermometer will really come in handy this grilling season. You can monitor the temperature of your cold food as well as making sure your grilled meats safely hit the correct temps.

Lindsay D. Mattison
After years of working in professional kitchens, Lindsay traded her knives in for the pen. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to turn local, seasonal ingredients into beautiful meals for her family.

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