Barbecue Basics: 7 Health Tips for Your Next Outdoor Party

There’s so much to look forward to at summer gatherings — food, drinks, games, and sunshine.
But as enjoyable as it can be to fire up the grill and spend an afternoon with friends and family, outdoor parties can present health risks too.
To ensure you soak up every inch of the fun, here are 7 healthy tips for your next barbecue.
1. Watch what you eat
For most people, one of the best parts of a cookout is eating. However, during warmer temperatures, germs in any contaminated food can flourish, warns Hilary K. Whitham, PhD, epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
She suggests avoiding anything that contains meat or dairy that looks like it’s been sitting outside for a long time. “Perhaps it has dry edges or is lukewarm to touch,” Whitham told Healthline.
The best way to think of how food should be served is to keep hot foods hot, and cold foods cold.
Specifically, cold foods should remain below the temperature of 40 degrees, and hot foods should remain above the temperature of 140 degrees.
“The area from 40 to 140 degrees is what we refer to as the danger zone,” said Whitham. “That’s the temperature range when bacteria can grow.”
To keep cold foods cold, she suggests serving them in small serving bowls and replenishing the bowls as needed so that the rest of the food can be kept in a refrigerator or cooler. Placing the serving dishes in a large bowl of ice is another way to keep the food safe.
2. That goes for any meat that will get grilled, too
“If food has been left out prior to cooking, such as a platter of chicken wings for the grill, even if it has been properly cooked and the bacteria has been killed, toxins from those bacteria that were growing when the chicken was left out of the fridge can remain,” said Whitham. “Those toxins can make people sick, so both proper chilling and proper cooking are necessary elements of food safety.”If you’re grilling a lot of meat, bring it out in rounds, and keep the rest in the refrigerator until you throw it on the grill.To keep grilled meat safe, Whitham recommends using a slow cooker. When cooking meat, keep the following in mind.Beef, pork, lamb, and veal should be cooked at 145 degrees Fahrenheit (and rest for three to five minutes once the meat is off the grill or out of the oven).
Ground beef (and eggs) should be cooked at 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Poultry and all leftovers should be cooked at 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Using a food thermometer is an easy way to ensure food is safe.“From my perspective, using a food thermometer provides peace of mind in terms of hosting an event… so I’m not worrying if I undercooked anything,” noted Whitham. “Eating things outside isn’t the primary driver of risk, it’s how it’s been prepared and what temperatures it’s kept at until you’re serving it and eating it.”
When it comes to preparing food, things to keep in mind include separating foods to avoid cross-contamination.
“That includes washing utensils and cutting boards after each use. Maybe even using a separate cutting board for cutting meats, and another for fruits and vegetables,” said Whitham.She also suggests making one food at a time and in different areas of the kitchen.“For example, if you’re making fruit salad and going to marinate a meat, make the fruit salad, clean it up then put it in the fridge,” Whitham explained. “Then make the marinade for the meat, marinate it, and put that in the fridge [on top of] a tray to catch any loose liquids that might escape the bag [and contaminate] anything else in the fridge.”
3. Wash your hands
At outdoor parties, people may be running in and out of the pool, playing games that require them to touch objects, and putting their hands in shared foods. While it’s important for the host to wash his or her hands properly when preparing and serving food, partygoers can protect themselves by washing their hands thoroughly.