Health Team

Keep foods out of the 'danger zone' by remembering temperature tips

Posted May 30
Updated May 31

As summer grilling season heats up, doctors say cookout champions should keep a meat thermometer near their charcoal, apron and tongs.

Many grillers decide that meat is done when the surface looks done, but that approach can ignore a food temperature "danger zone" that can put people at risk.

When food is either too warm or not hot enough, the neighborhood cookout could end with sick friends and family members.

"Your meat should be at 165 degrees. That's at the point where you know it's done, and not only done, but that's the degree in which it has killed off harmful microbes that could make you sick," dietitian Kristin Kirkpatrick said.

Hot foods should be at least 140 degrees before being served, and cold foods such as potato salad should be kept cooler than 40 degrees.

Kirkpatrick says to consider the amount of time food sits out as well. Food sitting outside should be eaten within an hour of being put out.

"Think about things like potato salad, macaroni salad. Those things that are very big during the summer months of having out at your picnic," she said. "A lot of times, what I'll suggest to my patients is to store those things on ice, so actually keep it cool. Don't let those microbes grow."

Another simple tip to follow with food safety is "when in doubt, throw it out."

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  • Charles Edwards May 30, 8:11 p.m.
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    165 degrees is for poultry and pork, not steaks. If you cook a steak to 165 it will be overly well done and not fit for human consumption. Steak temps start out Rare: 125, MedRare: 130-135, Med: 135-140, MedWell: 140-150, Well: 155+