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Before inviting your friends and family over for an annual holiday cookout, check out these tips to help make your summer get-together as safe as it is delicious.

Grill Prep

Safety starts before grilling begins—this means proper grill maintenance is a must. Make sure to set up your grill in a well-ventilated area at least ten feet away from your house to reduce the risk of fire.

“Never use a grill indoors or in a poorly ventilated area, as both charcoal and propane grills give off carbon monoxide,” says Lori DeCosta, MS, RD-AP, LDN, Director of Nutrition at BIDMC. If you start to feel a headache, nausea, drowsiness, or flu like symptoms, get to a well ventilated area—these early symptoms are often ignored and mistaken for other issues instead of carbon monoxide poisoning.

It’s also important to clean your grill regularly by removing grease or fat buildup to help prevent grease flare ups. “A grill covered in extra fat and grease literally adds more fuel to the fire,” DeCosta says.

If you use propane, make sure to check for gas leaks. You can do this by rubbing a solution of soapy water on the hoses and connections – if the soap begins to bubble when you turn on the gas, you’ve found a leak. Do not use a grill that has a gas leak.

Paying Attention to the Task at Hand

Grilling and entertaining go hand-in-hand. When you’re surrounded by great company and an atmosphere of excitement, it can be easy to get distracted. But it’s important to stay focused on the fire in front of you.

Never turn on the gas when your grill lid is closed. This can cause a gas build up and result in an explosion. “It’s also important to not overload your grill with food, especially when cooking fatty meats, since an excess of fat dripping on flames can result in a flare-up,” DeCosta says.

Safe Cooking

Prevent the spread of harmful bacteria by using separate containers for raw foods, like meat, and ready-to-eat foods, like fruit and salads. Perishable foods shouldn’t be left out for more than two hours. And remember, once you’re done grilling, don’t put cooked foods back on cutting boards or plates that originally held raw meat.

“Undercooked meat is a major cause of foodborne illness,” DeCosta says. “The color of meat isn’t always a reliable indicator for whether or not your food is done. Use a meat thermometer instead.”

Use these guidelines for minimum temperature requirements:

  • Ground beef must be heated throughout to a temperature of 160 degrees F.
  • Steaks, roasts and pork should be heated to 145 degrees F.
  • Poultry should be heated to 165 degrees F.
  • Fish should be cooked to 145 degrees F. or until it easily separates with a fork.

Don’t let foodborne illness ruin your holiday—grill safely and keep your summer fun rolling.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.