Barbecue Food Safety Tips

— Written By and last updated by

By: Tamika McLean
4-H Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program Assistant
North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center

In just a few weeks, it will be the Fourth of July and many of us will be grilling out. Just think, in one hand you’re holding a cool drink and in the other a spatula. A couple of juicy steaks or burgers are sizzling on the grill, and you’re savoring the smell of flavorful smoke as it drifts past your nose. The last thing on your mind is food safety, right? Well, it shouldn’t be. When barbecuing, you need to follow food safety rules and cook meat to a temperature that will kill bacteria, if you want to avoid getting sick.

Meats must be cooked to the proper temperature to assure safety. Germs such as E-coli and salmonella can still be present in undercooked meats such as hamburger and chicken. These germs can cause severe illness and even death. While the juice color will usually change from red to gray when the meat is fully cooked, it is not a reliable test to assure it is safe to eat. Always check the temperature with a meat thermometer. Insert the thermometer into the center of the meat, which is the least cooked part. For checking hot dogs, go from the end of the hot dog to the center. For hamburgers, go from the side of the burger to the center. Be careful not to pass through the meat and touch the cooking surface, or you will get a false high temperature reading. Do not place cooked meat on surfaces that had raw meat on them. Wash your hands after any contact with unclean surfaces, such as handling trash or raw meat, eating or smoking, using the bathroom, handling pets, or dirtying your hands during any activity.

Here are few food safety tips to follow:

  • Mix and use a sanitizer solution of 1 tablespoon chlorine bleach to 1 gallon warm (not hot) water for cleaning work area surfaces.
  • Marinate food in the refrigerator. Don’t taste the marinade or reuse it after raw meat has been added.
  • Keep flies away! Cover trash containers. Do not use fly or mosquito spray near the food area; the spray can contaminate the food.
  • Keep plates, cups, utensils, and food covered until ready to use.
  • Do not prepare and serve food if you have been sick with vomiting or diarrhea within the past 24 hours.
  • Last, but definitely not least, tie long hair back in a ponytail or bun. A hat, bandanna, or net will also work. Nobody likes to find a hair in their food, especially when it’s half eaten.

Below is a chart with the recommended temperatures. You might want to clip it out and put it with your grill equipment for easy reference. Here’s to a summer of fun, safe, and delicious meals!


Whole poultry, poultry breast, ground poultry = 165 degrees

Ground meat (beef, veal, pork, and lamb) = 160 degrees

Beef, veal, pork, and lamb (steaks, roasts, and chops) = 145 degrees

Hot dogs = 140 degrees

Eggs = 145 degrees

Egg dishes = 160 degrees

Try this easy recipe that will be delicious at any cookout.

Fast Italian Cucumber Salad

  • 3 or 4 Roma tomatoes (or your choice), about 1-1/2 cups chopped
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 2 cucumbers, chopped
  • 1bottle Italian Dressing

Place all vegetables in a large bowl. Pour entire bottle of dressing over vegetables and stir. Cover and refrigerate for several hours before serving. This can be kept in the refrigerator for several days.

For more information, please contact Tamika McLean, 4-H Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) Assistant with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 671-3276, by E-mail at or visit our website at North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age, veteran status, or disability. In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation.

Written By

Photo of Tamika McLean, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionTamika McLeanEFNEP Educator, Extension Program Associate (910) 875-3461 (Office) tamika_mclean@ncsu.eduHoke County, North Carolina
Posted on Jun 18, 2014
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