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For backyard barbecues, think food-safety first!

Toni-Ann DiSantis

For backyard barbecues, think food-safety first!

Backyard gatherings with good friends and delicious food are one of the delights of summer. But outdoor eating can bring unique food-safety questions, like where to marinate meat before grilling and whether to keep potato salad that’s been in the sun for three hours. Follow these guidelines for food-safe summer fun!

Marinate safely. To keep meat or fish at a safe temperature, always marinate it in the fridge rather than on the kitchen counter or outdoors. If you’re planning to use some of the marinade as a sauce, measure out and reserve what you need before you add the meat or fish to it. Toss out leftover marinade.

Grill meat thoroughly. Keep a food thermometer handy to determine whether meat and fish have been thoroughly cooked. All forms of poultry should reach a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees. Ground beef, pork, veal, or lamb should be cooked to at least 160 degrees, and fresh steaks, roasts, or chops should reach 145 degrees with a 3-minute rest time. Fish should reach 145 degrees.

Don’t cross-contaminate. Don’t re-use plates or utensils that you used for raw meat or seafood. Have a clean plate, tongs, and utensils ready for your cooked foods.

Be smart about outdoor buffets. Keeping cold foods cold and hot foods hot is food-safety gospel, for good reason: the danger zone for bacteria growth is between 40 and 140 degrees. In general, food that’s left outside for more than two hours should be thrown away, but if it’s over 90 degrees, stick with a one-hour window. Minimize waste by putting out smaller amounts of food and refilling, keeping the reserve in the fridge or on the stovetop. And since moisture breeds bacteria, keep dressings on the side for salads and pay attention to how long pasta salad, potato salad, and the like are left out. When in doubt, toss it out!