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Barbecue Food Safety


Developing a taste for food safety should be part of the routine whenever you use the barbecue.

Barbecued meat that is raw or undercooked can mean bacteria such as E.coli and salmonella are still present in the food. This creates a potential health hazard for anyone who eats the contaminated food.

To reduce the risk of illness, follow this step-by-step approach to safe barbecuing:

  • Buyer beware. Buy only food that comes from an approved source. Never buy uninspected meat, and examine food and its packaging at the store before you purchase it.
  • Travel with care. When shopping, buy your meat last and keep raw meats separate from other foods. If possible, transport meat home in a cooler bag with ice packs during hot weather.
  • Store food right. Keep the fridge at 4ºC (40ºF) or less, and keep the freezer at -18ºC (0ºF) or less.
  • Get off to a clean start. Wash hands, utensils and surfaces with hot soapy water before, during and after preparing foods. Sanitize countertops, cutting boards and utensils with a mild bleach and water solution. Wash all produce thoroughly before preparing, eating or cooking.
  • Make sure it is thawed right. Thaw food in the refrigerator. Thawing food by running it under cold running water or in a microwave oven is also acceptable. Thawing food at room temperature is unsafe since this practice can allow bacteria to grow on food.
  • Properly cook meat on the barbecue. Raw and undercooked meats, especially poultry, are major sources of foodborne illness, so be extra careful. When barbecuing meat, use a meat thermometer to ensure the meat has reached a safe internal temperature. For beef, pork and ground beef, the internal temperature should reach 71ºC (160ºF). The safe internal temperature for chicken and other poultry items is slightly higher at 74ºC (165ºF) or 82ºC (180ºF) for a whole chicken. Using pre-cooked meat or frozen hamburger is also a safer alternative than barbecuing fresh meat.
  • Remember the two-hour rule. Foods that are at risk of spoiling should not be left out at room temperature for more than two hours.

Additional Resources

Safe Barbecuing - HKPR District Health Unit

Food Safety - Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care

Food Safety Tips for Barbecuing - Canadian Food Inspection Agency