Remember the basics: Cooking outdoors and food storage safety

When grilling for family and friends, make sure you're careful about cooking outdoors and food safety.

People loading up paper plates around a table at a cookout.

Keep food safety in mind when cooking outdoors this summer. Each year, over 100,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized due to foodborne illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Protect everyone at your next picnic with these food prep, storage and cooking tips.

Packaging food

Plan ahead to keep your food safe throughout the day. Remember to:

  • Wash fruits and vegetables ahead of time. There may not be running water at the picnic site.
  • Store meat in separate airtight containers to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Place drinks and perishable foods in separate coolers. When guests grab drinks, they won't expose the perishable items.
  • Use ice packs to keep perishable items at a safe temperature in the cooler.
  • Pack a meat thermometer so you can be sure meats are cooked to safe temperatures.

Storing and serving food outdoors safely

As you enjoy your time outside, don't forget to:

  • Keep coolers out of direct sunlight, and avoid opening them excessively.
  • Keep perishable items in the cooler until time to eat. Make sure these items stay cool. The Food and Drug Administration recommends 40⁰ F or colder.
  • To serve, fill large bowls with ice and set foods that need to stay cool on top. Don't forget to replace the ice as it melts.
  • Discard any food that's been sitting out for more than two hours; if it's 90⁰ or more outside, discard after one hour.

Cooking the food outdoors safely

The same rules you follow at home apply to cooking outdoors and grilling safely. You'll need to:

  • Cook meat to the proper temperature to destroy potentially harmful bacteria.
  • Separate different types of raw meat from each other.
  • Don't place cooked meat on a plate that once held raw meat. This goes for utensils, too. Switch out your tongs to serve cooked meat.
  • Place cooked meats in a pan by the side of the grill. The heat will help maintain a safe internal temperature.
  • Have an area available to wash hands, and clean surfaces regularly and thoroughly.

The information in this article was obtained from various sources not associated with State Farm® (including State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and its subsidiaries and affiliates). While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. State Farm is not responsible for, and does not endorse or approve, either implicitly or explicitly, the content of any third party sites that might be hyperlinked from this page. The information is not intended to replace manuals, instructions or information provided by a manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional, or to affect coverage under any applicable insurance policy. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of this information.

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