Food safety is the main ingredient to a successful cookout

Whether you’re a grill master or a first-time barbecue cook, food safety should always be part of your routine to ensure a healthy and happy Fourth of July.

“Recent USDA consumer behavior studies have shown that individuals don’t always properly wash their hands or use a food thermometer,” said USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Emilio Esteban. “Show your family and friends that you’re a true grill master by cooking food to a safe temperature and washing your hands after handling raw meat and poultry.”

Ensure your food is safe to eat this Fourth of July by following these food safety steps.

Scrub the grill clean before use. Clean utensils and plates before they touch food. No access to a faucet? Carry bottled water, soap and paper towels. Wash your hands before and after handling raw meat and poultry. Follow proper handwashing steps to stop bacteria from spreading from your hands to your meal. Make sure to wet hands, lather with soap, scrub for 20 seconds, rinse and dry.

Avoid cross contamination. Separate raw meat and vegetables by using different cutting boards. Place raw meat or poultry on one plate and cooked meat and poultry on another. Don’t use the same utensils to place raw meat and poultry on the grill and take cooked food off.

Use food thermometers to ensure your grilled food is ready. Insert the thermometer through the side of the patty until the probe reaches the center. Color is never a reliable indicator of doneness. Cook food to a safe minimum internal temperature by using a food thermometer:

  • Cook whole cuts of meat to 145 F with a three-minute rest time.
  • Cook fish to 145 F.
  • Cook ground meats to 160 F.
  • Cook poultry (ground or whole) to 165 F.

Although frozen products may appear to be pre-cooked or browned, treat them as raw food and cook thoroughly. Products labeled as “Cook and Serve,” “Ready to Cook” and “Oven Ready” must be cooked.

Bacteria multiply rapidly between 40 F and 140 F — aka the Danger Zone. Perishable food should be consumed or refrigerated within two hours (one hour if outdoor temperatures are 90 F and above).

For more food safety information, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at (888) MPHotline ((888) 674-6854), email or chat live at ask.usda.govfrom 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.

About the USDA
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit