Are Your Barbecue Foods in the ‘Danger Zone’?

Assorted delicious grilled meat with vegetable over the coals on a barbecue

Chicken? Check. Barbecue sauce? Check. Burgers? Check.

You’re all set to fire up your grill. But you’re missing one thing.

A meat thermometer is your key to grilling safely.

Follow these tips to ensure a satisfying (and safe) experience for your family and friends.

Are they done yet?

Cutting open a chicken breast or burger won’t tell you whether it’s truly “done.”

The only one way to know is by inserting a meat thermometer.

Your meat should be at 165 degrees, and your chicken should be at 160 degrees.

“That’s the point where you know it’s done, where it has killed off harmful microbes that could make you sick,” says wellness dietitian Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD.

The danger zone

The temperature ‘danger zone’ you want to avoid is between 40 degrees and 140 degrees.

Keep barbecue foods at these temperatures right up until you serve them:

  • Above 140 degrees for cooked, hot food
  • Below 40 degrees for cold foods (especially those with mayo, dairy or egg products).

“A lot of times what I’ll suggest to my patients is to store potato salad or macaroni salad on ice,” says Ms. Kirkpatrick.

“Actually keep it cool. Don’t let those microbes grow.”

Watch the clock

Be sure to factor in the length of time a food sits out, and whether it’s sitting on a table indoors or outside in the hot sun.

Outdoor food will probably last only one hour before it reaches the danger zone.

Indoor food may last up to two hours before it becomes unsafe.

Keep these tips in mind for an enjoyable and safe barbecue experience.