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Houston Department of Health and Human Services > Food Inspection and Safety (Consumer Health) > Food Safety Tips > Barbecue Food Safety

Barbecue Food Safety

Warm weather is the ideal time to cook out: more people cook outdoors in spring and summer than any other time of the year. As we approach summer in Houston, here is some information for food safety.

Warm temperatures are ideal for bacteria and other harmful pathogens to multiply and cause foodborne illness. Grill it but grill it safe!

  • Place all meat and poultry in the refrigerator maintained at 41F or below. Freeze poultry and ground meat that wont be used in two to three days; freeze other meat within four to five days if not used.
  • Thaw meat and poultry before grilling so it cooks more evenly. Use the refrigerator thawing for safe thawing. Microwave thawing is acceptable if the food is to be grilled immediately. Thawing sealed packages in cold water is also acceptable.
  • Always marinate meats in the refrigerator, not on the countertop. Dont re-use the marinade used on raw meat or poultry unless its boiled first to destroy harmful bacteria.
  • If you pre-cook partially in the microwave, do it immediately before grilling.
  • If you are catering, keep all meat and poultry refrigerated to minimize bacterial growth. Use insulated coolers, ice packs, refrigerated containers on trucks to ensure safe temperature. When handling raw meats, remove from the cooler only the amount that will fit the cooking grill.
  • Use clean utensils every time. Do not use the same platter, knives or cutting board for raw and cooked meat and poultry. Bacteria present in raw meat or juices can contaminate the safely cooked items.
  • Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often browns fast on the outside. Do not rely on the appearance, use a meat thermometer to ensure safe internal temperatures. Poultry should reach 180F, juices should run clear. Hamburgers made of any ground meat or poultry should reach 160F. Beef, veal and lamb steaks, roasts and chops can be cooked to 145F. Cook all pork products to 160F.
  • Dont partially grill meat or poultry and finish cooking later.
  • Keep hot food hot until served. Use a chafing dish, warming tray, steam table, slow cooking pot or on the side of the cooking grill. Do not put the container directly over heating element to prevent overcooking.
  • Do not put cooked items off the grill on the same platter used for storing raw meats. Keep separate platters.
  • When it is hot outside, do not leave food at room temperature for longer than one hour.
  • Store all leftovers in the refrigerator. For bulk meats, slice before placing in the refrigerator. Refrigerate or freeze within two hours of taking food off the grill. If you are transporting the cooked leftovers, be sure to place it in a cooler for temperature control. Discard any food left out more than two hours.

For this, or any food-safety-related information, please contact the Bureau of Consumer Health Services at 713/794-9200.

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Contact the HDHHS Bureau of Consumer Health Services