Are savory BBQ smells wafting through your neighborhood yet? Grilled treats are tasty, plus healthier than foods fried in oil or breaded with extra calories and baked in the oven. Digging into these delicacies can be a true delight.

Still, there are precautions to take when preparing summer meats and vegetables. You don’t want to become a statistic, like the 76 million Americans who fell victim to food poisoning last year, or the nearly 9,000 homeowners whose houses went up in flames along with their burgers.

Gentlemen, Start Your Grills
Whether you use gas (like 64 percent of grillers), charcoal (44 percent), or electricity (9 percent), be sure to follow these safety tips as you’re preparing to grill.

  • Dress properly. Tuck in loose clothing and wear closed shoes in case something hot hits your feet.
  • Cook outside, away from balconies and patio furniture. Also watch overhead tree limbs.
  • Set up your grill on a flat, stable surface.
  • Clean the grill before cooking on it. Remove previous fat buildup or charred residue.
  • Check gas grills for propane leaks. Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose, and then turn on the gas. If there is a leak, the solution will bubble.
  • Expect an emergency. Have baking soda to toss on a grease fire and a fire extinguisher for other flame-ups.
  • Never leave a lit grill unattended. Keep an eye on pets and kids.
  • What if the fire goes out? On a gas grill, turn off the gas and wait at least five minutes before relighting. For a charcoal fire, never add more starter fluid or other flammable liquid. Instead, use paper and a match to restart.

Avoiding Food Prep Pitfalls
Protecting your family from E. coli and salmonella starts at the grocery store.

  • Keep meats cold. Select meats, poultry, and seafood at the end of your trip instead of wheeling them around in your cart at room temperature, inviting bacteria to multiply as you continue to shop. If you’re grilling away from home, transport meats in an insulated cooler at 40 F or less, keeping it closed and out of direct sunlight.
  • Isolate raw meat. When bagging items, keep fruits and vegetables away from meats. Place meats in a separate sack, with each package slipped into its own plastic bag to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Don’t use the same utensils or surfaces for both raw meat and veggies. Throw out marinades and sauces tainted with raw meat juices; do not reuse them to flavor gravies.
  • Wash your hands and work surfaces. Scrub cutting boards, plates, and utensils with hot, soapy water. Use clean plates and utensils when pulling cooked meats off the grill.

Taking Your BBQ’s Temperature
Use a food thermometer to ensure whatever you’re grilling has reached a safe minimum internal temperature. That temperature varies according to the type and cut of meat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (

  • 145 F – whole cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and veal
  • 145 F – fish
  • 160 F – hamburger and other ground meats
  • 165 F – poultry and pre-cooked meats, like hotdogs and sausages

Leftover cooked meats should be kept warm at 140 F or hotter, or refrigerated within two hours; one hour on days when it’s 90 degrees or hotter outside. Keep food covered to protect from insects, which will pick up and deposit germs wherever they land.