Food Safety Tips


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I want to share some essential food safety tips with you that will help you be the best host and keep your guests and family safe!

Minimum internal temperature for food safety.

I always go to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service website for recommendations on food safety.

Here are the SIMPLE guidelines:

1. Safe Shopping and Storing

  • Buy meat and poultry last. Place them in separate bags to prevent juices from dripping on other foods.
  • I’ve noticed more stores have sanitizer wipes by the carts. I always wipe the carts BEFORE and AFTER shopping, including wiping my hands again before I load the car.
  • Refrigerate perishable items within 2 hours and within 1 hour if the temperature is above 90°F.
  • Freeze poultry and ground meat if it isn’t used in 1 or 2 days. Freeze other meat within 4 to 5 days.

2. Safe Thawing

  • Never thaw at room temperature on a counter! This will encourage bacteria to grow quickly.
  • Thaw in the refrigerator. This will take longer. However, just plan ahead.
  • Sealed packages can be thawed in cold water; just do not let the meat reach room temperature.
  • Defrost in the microwave if using immediately on the grill.

3. Safe Marinating

  • Marinate food in the refrigerator; up to 2 days for Poultry and cubed meat and 5 days for beef, veal, pork, lamb, roasts, chops, and steaks.
  • It is best not to reuse marinade that has been used for the raw meat. Instead, reserve some extra marinade. If you must, then make sure you BOIL the used marinade before using it to kill harmful bacteria.

4.  Safe Transporting

  • Keep cold food cold at 40°F or below with an insulated cooler filled with ice or ice packs.
  • Keep raw meat cold until ready to grill, and keep the cooler out of the sun!

5. Safe Cooking & Reheating

Whole Poultry165°F
Poultry Pieces165°F
Ground Poultry165°F
Ground Meats160°F
Beef, pork, lamb, veal (steaks, roasts, chops)145°F
  • An instant-read digital thermometer is your new best friend! This essential cooking tool will help you serve food at the proper temperature. Just make sure to clean the probe before inserting it into another food item. Test the temperature BEFORE removing from the heat source.
  • If you are fully cooking a food item before grilling, make sure to immediately reheat it on the grill to complete cooking. Reheat to 165°F or until steaming hot.
  • NEVER partially grill meat or poultry and finish cooking later.
  • After cooking meat or poultry, keep hot until served at 140°F or warmer. This can be done by setting the cooked food on the indirect heat side of the grill or keeping it in an oven set at 200°F, in a chafing dish, slow cooker, or warming tray.
  • If smoking foods, the smoker’s temperature should be maintained at 250 to 300°F for safety.

6. Safe Serving

  • NEVER use the same plate or serving utensils to serve cooked food that held the raw food. It may seem obvious, but I have seen this happen! Bacteria from the raw food can contaminate the cooked food.
  • In hot weather above 90°F, do not let food sit out for more than 1 hour.
  • Discard food left out for more than 2 hours!
  • Leftover perishable foods should be refrigerated within 2 hours in a shallow pan at 40°F (as long as they have not been left out longer, as specified above).

7. Temperature “Danger Zone”

Bacteria grow most rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40°F and 140°F (the temperature danger zone), doubling in number in as little as 20 minutes.

  • Keep all Cold food below <40°F
  • Keep all Hot foods above >140°F

This concept has been drilled into my brain since my first classes in Food Science. Why? The most important job of anyone in the food industry or home cook is to keep the food safe for people to eat.

If you leave food out too long at room temperature, harmful bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella Enteritidis, Escherichia coliO157:H7, and Campylobacter can grow to dangerous levels that can cause foodborne illness.

Important Tips to Remember

  1. Always wash your hands after handling raw poultry and meats.
  2. Wash and dry cutting boards in between prepping raw food items to prevent contamination.
  3. Never use the same serving utensils or plates for raw and cooked food.
  4. In hot weather above 90°F, do not let food sit out for more than 1 hour.
  5. Discard food left out more than 2 hours.
  6. Keep cold foods below 40°F, and hot food above 140°F (never between 40°F-140°F).
  7. Refrigerate leftover perishable foods within 2 hours below 40°F, discard beyond that time.

It may be a lot of things to remember, but it is an important consideration as you, your family, and friends enjoy this fun eating time together!

Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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6 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Nancy says

    Thanks Jessica. You gave the answer I needed. I’m going to get more ice and a cooler for my watermelon. ?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Yay! I’m so glad that my geeky food science post helped you Nancy! 🙂 have fun at your food festivities!

      • Nancy says

        Yes it did! Lol. We enjoyed the holiday and most of all food was great even in this GA heat!!☺ with your tips. Thanks again!

        • Jessica Gavin says

          Great job Nancy! I’m so glad you had a wonderful celebration and all of the food was delicious and safe 🙂

  2. Thalia @ butter and brioche says

    thanks jessica for the informative post.. i definitely picked up some new knowledge – thanks for sharing!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Thalia! I’m so glad that you found the post helpful. I hope you’re having a delicious summer!