Don’t fall victim to these common food poisoning sources. Here’s how to keep uninvited bacteria away from your next barbecue or picnic.
A rare burger might sound juicy and delicious, but ground beef cooked below 160°F might not kill disease-spreading bacteria. You don’t need to leave your burger undercooked to get that juiciness you crave. Adding chopped mushrooms and less salt will make for a moister burger, especially if you don’t spend too much time mixing them in, says Libby Mills, MS, RDN, LDN, FAND, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “If you’re incorporating herbs or spices and overwork it, you could easily squish out air pockets,” she says. “Those little pockets will trap juices.” She also recommends searing the patty first to lock the juices in, then moving the patty to a medium heat to finish cooking. How you cook meat is a big part of how good or bad meat is for you.
A steak that hasn’t cooked to 145°F could harbor bacteria, which is especially dangerous for young children, older adults, or anyone with a compromised immune system, says Wesley Delbridge, RD, food and nutrition director for the Chandler Unified School District Food and Nutrition Department. “For any of those three, don’t go with anything but fully cooked, well done,” he says. For a juicy cut that hasn’t been done rare, he recommends searing it, as well as marinating beforehand.
Poultry needs to reach 165°F before all the harmful bacteria are killed, says Jeff Nelken, food safety consultant. Eyeballing the color isn’t enough—to be safe, you need to use a thermometer, he says. Because chicken needs to reach a higher temp than, say, ground beef (which the FDA says only has to reach 160°F), keep them in separate areas of your grill and use a different tool for each. “If you throw on a raw chicken breast and it gets on the hamburger, there will be cross-contamination,” Nelken says. He recommends sectioning off your grill based on the type of meat, then moving fully cooked meat to a holding area of 135°F to stay warm. Even seasoned cooks can make these BBQ mistakes.