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Food Safety Tips for Barbecuing

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Many Canadians love to barbecue all year round, but especially when the weather starts to get warm. As with any type of cooking, it's important to follow safe food handling guidelines to prevent harmful bacteria from spreading and causing foodborne illness.

At the store

When you're at the grocery store, buy cold food at the end of your shopping. Make sure to keep raw meat separate from other products. You can put packages of raw meat in separate plastic bags to keep meat juices from leaking onto other foods. This helps avoid possible cross-contamination and prevents the spread of foodborne illness. Always refrigerate perishable foods within one to two hours, especially in warm weather.

Storing raw meat

In the refrigerator

At home, store raw meat in the refrigerator immediately after you return from the grocery store. Freeze raw poultry or ground beef that won't be used within one to two days. Freeze other meats within four to five days.

Marinate meat in the refrigerator, not on the counter. If you want to save some of the marinade to baste cooked meat or use as a dipping sauce, make sure to set some aside in the refrigerator that hasn't touched uncooked meat. Don't use leftover marinade that has been in contact with raw meat on cooked food.

In the cooler

If you are storing your meat in a cooler before barbecuing, make sure that the cooler is kept cold with ice packs. Keep the cooler out of direct sunlight and avoid opening it too often, because it lets cold air out and warm air in. You may also want to use two coolers, one for drinks (as it may get opened more often) and another one for food.

Whether you are storing the meat in the refrigerator or a cooler, always remember to keep food out of the temperature danger zone of 4°C to 60°C (40°F to 140°F). Bacteria can grow in this temperature range. After only two hours in this range, your food can become dangerous.


To avoid potential cross-contamination and the spread of foodborne illness, follow these steps:

  • Make sure to keep raw meat away from other foods, including vegetables such as lettuce and tomatoes. You can do this by packing meats separately or by making sure they are wrapped separately, so that juices don't leak out onto other foods.
  • Wash your hands carefully with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw meat.
  • Clean all your cooking equipment, utensils and work surfaces, and then sanitize them with a mild bleach solution, in the following manner:
    • Combine 5 mL (1 tsp) of bleach with 750 mL (3 cups) of water in a labelled spray bottle.
    • Spray the bleach solution on the surface/utensil and let stand briefly.
    • Rinse with lots of clean water and air dry (or use clean towels).


Thawing should be done in the refrigerator. Sealed packages can be thawed in cold water. Microwave defrosting is acceptable if the food item is placed immediately on the grill. Meat should be completely thawed before grilling so that it cooks more evenly.

Cook thoroughly and use a digital food thermometer

Bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria can only be killed by heat. Raw meat must be cooked properly to a safe internal temperature (see chart below) to avoid foodborne illness. Colour alone is not a reliable indicator that meat is safe to eat. Meat can turn brown before all the bacteria are killed, so use a digital food thermometer to be sure.

To check the temperature of meat that you are cooking on the barbecue, take it off the grill and place it in a clean plate. Insert the digital food thermometer through the thickest part of the meat. For hamburgers, you should insert the digital food thermometer through the side of the patty, all the way to the middle. Make sure to check each piece of meat or patty because heat can be uneven.

Do not use the same plate or utensils for raw and cooked meat because cross-contamination can occur. Raw juices can spread bacteria to your safely-cooked food and cause foodborne illness.

Remember to always clean your digital food thermometer in warm, soapy water between temperature readings to avoid cross-contamination.

Internal Cooking Temperatures

You can't tell by looking. Use a digital food thermometer to be sure!

Food Temperature
Beef, veal and lamb (pieces and whole cuts)


63°C (145°F)
Medium 71°C (160°F)
Well done 77°C (170°F)

Pork (pieces and whole cuts)

71°C (160°F)
Poultry (e.g. chicken, turkey, duck)


74°C (165°F)
Whole 85°C (185°F)
Ground meat and meat mixtures (e.g. burgers, sausages, meatballs, meatloaf, casseroles)

Beef, veal, lamb and pork

71°C (160°F)
Poultry 74°C (165°F)
Egg dishes

Egg dishes

74°C (165°F)

Others (e.g. hot dogs, stuffing, leftovers)

74°C (165°F)

Keep hot food hot

Remember to keep hot food hot until served. Keep cooked meats hot by setting them to the side of the grill, not directly over coals where they can overcook.

Serving food

Use a clean plate when taking food off the grill. Remember not to put cooked food on the same plate that held raw meat. This prevents it from being re-contaminated by raw juices.


Cool food by using shallow containers, so that it cools quickly. Discard any food left out for more than two hours. On hot summer days, don't keep food at room temperature for more than one hour. Remember to keep food out of the temperature danger zone of 4°C to 60°C (40°F to 140°F). When in doubt, throw it out!

What the Government of Canada does to keep our food supply safe

The Government of Canada is committed to food safety.

Health Canada establishes regulations and standards relating to the safety and nutritional quality of foods sold in Canada. Through inspection and enforcement activities, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency verifies that food sold in Canada meets Health Canada's requirements.

For more information on food safety, please visit the Government of Canada's Food Safety Portal ( and the Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education's  Be Food Safe Canada program (