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Cookout Monday


With hot weather, extra long days, and abundant fresh produce come frequent summer cookouts and picnics with family and friends. However, warm temperatures also provide prime conditions for bacteria to multiply and cause foodborne illnesses. This summer, make sure you follow some essential tips in order to have safe outdoor fun.

To begin, always wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before and after handling any food. If clean water and soap are unavailable, use disposable wipes or liquid sanitizer. It is also important to use a clean food preparation area and utensils.

For those following the Meatless Monday pledge, plan to grill vegetables. For those of you who are sticking with grilling meat there are a few important food safety tips you should follow.

Be sure to keep raw meat, poultry and seafood from all other foods in a separate cooler or wrapped tightly at the bottom of a shared cooler. When removing raw meat from the cooler, take out only the amount that will fit the grill. Once cooking the meat, use a thermometer to assure that the food reaches its safe minimum internal temperature.

  • Poultry products: 165°F
  • Ground beef/pork/lamb/veal: 160°F
  • Beef/lamb/veal steaks, roasts, and chops: 145°F (+ 3 minutes rest time after cooking)
  • Fresh pork and lamb products: 145°F (+ 3 minutes rest time after cooking)
  • Fin fish: 145°F or until flesh is opaque and flakes easily with a fork

Do not re-use any plates or utensils that touched raw meat, poultry or seafood unless they are thoroughly washed with hot soap and water.

When storing food, keep hot food at or above 140°F and cold food at or below 40°F until served. Set cooked meats to the side of the grill or wrap tightly in insulated containers to keep hot. If reheating fully cooked meats later, heat to 165°F or until steaming hot. Store perishable cold foods in a cooler directly on ice or in shallow containers, which provide more surface area, on the ice.

Always keep coolers out of the direct sun, and inside the air-conditioned car – not the trunk – when transporting. Avoid repeatedly opening the cooler and replace ice frequently.

After finishing the meal, return hot and cold perishables to the cooler immediately. These foods should not stay out for longer than two hours, or one hour if temperature outside is more than 90°F. Leftovers should be safe for consumption as long as there is still ice in the cooler when you return home.

Dave Love, PhD, MSPH, an assistant scientist in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences, also adds, “Do not cook for others if you are sick, or have been sick in the last 48 hours.”

For a more detailed chart on safe minimum cooking temperatures, visit

For a list of Meatless Monday BBQ recipes, visit

Every Monday, the Johns Hopkins Healthy Monday Project, part of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, offers tips for preventing disease and injury, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Check back each week for new tips or visit our archive.