Hosting a cookout? Follow these Fourth of July food safety tips

Barbecue Beats Presented by Kingsford at Sandy Creek Park on Friday, June 3, 2016, in Athens, GA. (Photo by Katie Darby/Invision for Kingsford and Pandora/AP Images)

WASHINGTON (WISH) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service is urging everyone to prioritize food safety during Independence Day celebrations.

Grilling and smoking safety tips include:

  • Thawing Meat or Poultry First: Smoking requires low temperatures to cook food safely. Frozen food takes too long to reach a safe internal temperature, allowing bacteria to multiply. While grilling frozen foods is possible, it will take longer and may cook unevenly.
  • Marinating in the Refrigerator: Marinating tenderizes and flavors meat and poultry before grilling or smoking. Always marinate in the refrigerator; avoid marinating on the counter. When basting meat during cooking and using the marinade as a sauce, reserve some marinade that hasn’t touched raw meat. If using marinade that’s been in contact with raw meat, boil it first to kill harmful bacteria.
  • Keeping Raw Meat and Poultry Separate: Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw meats and poultry versus fully cooked or ready-to-eat foods to prevent bacterial cross-contamination.
  • Maintaining Safe Temperatures: When smoking meats, use two types of thermometers: one for the food’s internal temperature and another (oven-safe) to monitor air temperature in the smoker or grill (maintain 225-300°F).
  • Cook Meats to Safe Internal Temperatures:
    • Cook raw beef, pork, lamb, and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to at least 145°F internal temperature before removing from heat. Let meat rest for at least three minutes before serving.
    • Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 160°F to ensure safety.

If you have food safety questions, you can contact the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline through email, phone (1-888-674-6854) or live chat from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (EST), Monday through Friday.