As the weather warms up, keep these tips in mind to make sure your party is safe

Warmer days encourage more outdoor cooking on the grill. While grilling can be healthy and tasty, it is important to follow food safety guidelines to prevent bacterial growth and food-borne illnesses. A barbecue is no fun if someone gets sick from improper food handling.

When shopping, pick up cold foods like meat and poultry last. Keep these foods separate from others in the cart and while bagging foods. Always refrigerate perishable foods within two hours of grocery shopping. Place meats in the refrigerator or freezer when you arrive home. You should freeze meats that won’t be used within a day or two.

Completely defrost meats before cooking. The best method of defrosting is in the refrigerator. You can also fill the sink with cool water to defrost packages, but you need to change the water every couple hours. The microwave can be used to defrost foods if they are to be cooked immediately. Foods should not be thawed by placing them on the counter and left out for a period of time.

You should marinate foods in the refrigerator, not on the counter. If a marinade is used on raw foods, you must bring it to a boil before using the marinade on the cooked food to destroy any bacteria. The best option is to put aside some of the marinade for the cooked food before it is used on any raw foods.

A cooler should be used if food is to be transported to another location. Place the cooler in a cool or shaded area and avoid opening the lid too often. Pack beverages in a separate cooler than meat and poultry. Keep meat and poultry cold (below 40 degrees) until it is ready to be cooked.

Make sure there are plenty of clean plates and utensils. Do not use the same plate for raw and cooked meats and poultry. There are harmful bacteria in raw foods that can contaminate safely cooked foods.

If you are away from home, make sure there is water available for preparation and cleaning. If there is not, bring water from home. You can also pack clean clothes or wet towels for cleaning surfaces and hands.

Food should be cooked to a safe temperature to destroy harmful bacteria. Use a food thermometer to make sure the food has reached a safe internal temperature. The recommendations for internal temperatures are as follows: whole poultry should reach 180°F; breasts, 170°F. Hamburgers made of ground beef should reach 160°F; ground poultry, 165°F. Beef, veal, and lamb steaks, roasts and chops can be cooked to 145°F. All cuts of pork should reach 160°F.

After cooking, keep foods hot or on the grill until ready to be eaten. You can set them to the sides of the grill to avoid overcooking. At home, they can be kept in an oven or warming tray until ready to be eaten.

Refrigerate any leftovers promptly after eating. Food should be discarded if it is left out over 2 hours. Bacteria have multiplied to a dangerous rate after 2 hours when the temperature is between 40°F and 140°F.

Following four basic steps, clean, separate, cook, and chill, will ensure safe foods to eat and enjoy in the summer and year-round.

If you have questions or ideas for future articles, please contact Melissa Bess, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist with University of Missouri Extension. Call the Camden County Extension Center at 346-2644, stop by our office at 44 Roofener Street, Camdenton, or email Melissa at

Melissa Bess is the author of the MU Health and Wellness blog featured on