Keep Your Food Safe all the Way from the Refrigerator/Freezer to the Picnic Table

Karly JohnsonBy Karly Johnson
Wisconsin Nutrition Education Program Coordinator
University of Wisconsin-Extension Oneida and Langlade Counties


The summer months offer many opportunities to grill out and picnic with family and friends. It is important to know how to safely handle foods when eating outdoors during the warm weather months. Warm weather present opportunities for foodborne bacteria to multiply quickly, if food is not handled properly. Follow the tips below to reduce the risk of foodborne bacteria crashing your summer cookout.

Pack and Transport Food Safely

  • Keep foods cold by placing in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs. Foods should be kept 40F or below to prevent bacteria growth.
  • Clean produce under running tap water before packing them in the cooler.
  • Pack beverages in one cooler and perishable foods in another.
  • Keep raw meat, poultry and seafood wrapped securely so you do not cross-contaminate.


  • Foods should always be marinated in the refrigerator not on the kitchen counter or outdoors.
  • Don’t reuse marinade
  • If cooking meat partially before grilling to reduce cooking time be sure to finish cooking on the hot grill immediately.
  • Use a food thermometer to ensure food is cooked to the correct internal temperature to kill foodborne bacteria. See Safe Food Temperature Chart
  • Don’t reuse platter or utensils that have previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood.

Serving Cold Food

  • Cold foods should in kept at 40F or below until serving time.
  • Once food is served it should not sit out at room temp for longer than 2 hours. If the temperature is above 90F it should not sit out longer than 1 hour
  • Mayo based salads and cream desserts should be placed directly on ice. As ice melts be sure to drain off water and replace ice frequently.

Serving Hot Food

  • Hot foods should be kept above 140F
  • Wrap foods well and place in insulated containers until serving.
  • Hot foods should not sit out for more than 2 hours or 1 hour in temperatures above 90F

For more food safety information visit and


Safe Food Temperature Chart

Food Temperature
Steaks and roasts 145°F
Fish 145°F
Pork 145°F
Ground beef 160°F
Egg dishes 160°F
Chicken breasts 165°F
Whole poultry 165°F

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