Keep Food Safe During Holiday Cookouts

Elizabeth S. Reames, Merrill, Thomas A.  |  6/27/2006 2:27:20 AM

Proper cooking and handling of food can help you avoid inviting foodborne illnesses to join your holiday cookouts.

News You Can Use Distributed 06/26/06

One part of a safe and happy 4th of July celebration is ensuring your food is safe to eat, says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.

"Whether you’re cooking out, preparing a picnic or simply eating at home, you want to follow food safety rules," Reames says. "Try to apply the same rules you follow for cleanliness in your kitchen even when you are cooking out."

The LSU AgCenter food safety expert offers these tips for handling and preparing foods safely:

–Always start with a clean scene. Wash hands with warm water and soap. Wash work surfaces and utensils with hot soapy water. When running water isn’t available, use paper towels and clean, wet disposable cloths or moist antibacterial towelettes for cleaning hands and surfaces.

–Defrost meats safely. Never defrost on the counter or in the sink at room temperature. Defrost in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave. Food thawed in cold water or in the microwave should be cooked immediately.

–When handling raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs, keep these foods and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods. Wash any plate that contained raw meat or poultry thoroughly with hot soapy water before putting cooked foods back on that plate.

–Always marinate food in the refrigerator. Bring any marinade or sauce that has been in contact with raw meat to a rolling boil if you intend to serve it with the cooked meat.

–Meats are safe to eat when cooked to a high enough internal temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that cause illness. Color is not a reliable indicator of doneness. Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of meats on the grill. For ground meat and meat mixtures of beef, pork, veal or lamb, cook to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Recommended internal temperatures for other types of meat are: ground turkey or chicken, 165 degrees; fresh beef, veal or lamb, 145 degrees for medium rare, 160 degrees for medium and 170 degrees for well done; whole chicken, whole turkey or poultry parts, 165 degrees; and fish, 145 degrees.

–Keep all perishable foods cold. Pack prepared foods in sealed containers in an ice chest with plenty of ice. Divide large amounts of cooked foods into shallow containers for quicker cooling, and chill these foods before putting them in the ice chest. Putting hot or warm food in an ice chest to cool may lengthen the cooling process and allow bacteria to grow.

–Take care of leftovers right away. Never let raw meat, poultry, eggs, cooked food or cut fresh fruits or vegetables sit at room temperature for more than two hours before putting them in the refrigerator or freezer or back in the ice chest. If the temperature is above 90 degrees, limit the time foods sit out to one hour or less.

–Reheat leftovers to 165 degrees and bring sauces, soups and gravies to a boil when reheating.

–If homemade ice cream is on your menu, make sure you don’t use raw eggs. Raw eggs may be contaminated with Salmonella bacteria, which can cause foodborne illness. If your favorite recipe calls for raw eggs, use dried or pasteurized eggs. To use regular eggs to make ice cream, cook any flour or cornstarch, milk and sugar called for in your recipe together. Then add the beaten eggs and heat the mixture until it reaches 160 degrees or until the mixture coats a metal spoon. Refrigerate this mixture until it is cool. Then proceed with the ice cream recipe instructions. Or simply choose an ice cream recipe that calls for cooked custard.

"Be careful in the ways you handle and prepare food," Reames says. "You want your holiday celebration to be remembered for the food and fun – not a trip to the emergency room or the upset stomach it caused."

For additional food safety tips, contact your parish’s LSU AgCenter Extension office, or visit


Contact: Beth Reames at (225) 578-1425 or
Editor: Tom Merrill at (225) 578-2263 or

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