Food Safety, Preparation and Storage Tips
Cooperative Extension, College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, the University of Arizona

Barbecue Safety

Safely transporting food, precooking and preventing cross-contamination are the major ingredients of barbecue safety.

When transporting food, either from the grocery store or to a picnic area, keep it cool to minimize bacterial growth. Pack meat, poultry, salads and other perishables in an insulated cooler with ice.

Marinade is a savory acidic sauce in which a food is soaked to tenderize and add flavor. Always marinate meats in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Reserve a portion of the marinade that hasn’t had raw meat in it for a dip or basting sauce. Don’t reuse marinade used on raw meat or poultry unless it has been boiled first to destroy any bacteria.

Meats and poultry may be precooked on the stove, microwave or oven to reduce grilling times. If foods are partially precooked, place immediately on the grill to finish cooking. Never partially cook meats and poultry and wait to finish cooking later. If meats and poultry are completely cooked ahead of time and chilled, they may be reheated on the grill to provide a barbecued flavor.

If take-out foods such as fried chicken or barbecued beef will be reheated on the grill, and they won’t be eaten within two hours of purchase, buy them ahead of time and chill thoroughly.

Don’t use the same platter and utensils for raw and cooked meats and poultry. Be sure there are plenty of clean utensils and platters for separately handling the raw foods and the cooked foods. Pack clean, soapy sponges, clothes and wet towelettes for cleaning surfaces and hands. There is an antibacterial soap on the market now that does not need water and would be ideal to carry on a picnic for cleaning platters and utensils.

Cook everything thoroughly. Rare or medium meat or poultry can harbor harmful bacteria. Fish should always be fully cooked. For greatest safety, ground meat should reach 160° F on a meat thermometer, and poultry should reach 180° F for doneness. Since grilled food often browns very fast on the outside, make a "sample cut" to visually check for doneness. The juices should run clear and meat should not be pink.

Does grilling pose a cancer risk? Based on current research findings, eating moderate amounts of grilled meats, fish, and poultry, cooked thoroughly without charring, does not pose a health problem.


  • USDA Consumer Information Publication.1996. “Barbecue Food Safety”.
  • Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA Food Safety Publications.1996.
  • USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline

Material written by Mary Abgrall and Scottie Misner, May 1998.
Part of Food Safety Tips, College of Agriculture, The University of Arizona
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