Harper College

Grilling and Picnic Safety

Summer time means that the weather is nice enough for picnics and grilling outdoors! Here are some safety tips for grilling and food preparation for this beautiful season.


The Food and Drug Administration has the following tips for, “Handling Food Safely while Eating Outdoors”.

  • Keep Cold Food Cold: place food in a cooler with ice packs to keep food at least 40°F or below to prevent bacteria growth
  • Organize Cooler Contents: beverages in one cooler and perishable food in another.
  • Keep Coolers Closed: limit the number of times you open cooler to help keep contents cold longer
  • Don’t Cross Contaminate: Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood securely wrapped and store them away from ready to eat foods like fruits and vegetables.
  • Clean your produce: Rinse all fresh fruits and vegetables, including the skins and rinds that are not actually eaten. Wash with a clean vegetable brush and dry with a clean cloth or paper towel.

Outdoor Hand Cleaning: If you cannot get access to clean running water, use a water jug with a spigot, some soap and paper towels and a catch bucket to wash your hands. Or if water is not possible try using moist disposable towelettes or hand sanitizer to clean your hands.

Back Up Utensils: without the ability to wash utensils, remember to bring extras with just in case some fall on the ground outside and can no longer be used.

Check out this article from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on "Perfect Food Safe Picnics".

  • Marinate Safely: Marinate food in the refrigerator; not outdoors or on the kitchen counter. Also, do not reuse the marinade as sauce on the cooked food, save a portion separately before adding the rest on to the raw meat, poultry or seafood.
  • Cook food immediately after “Partial Cooking”. For example, if you start to defrost frozen hamburgers in the microwave, continue cooking them on the grill, do not wait.
  • Cook Food Thoroughly: Make sure the internal temperature of all food reach the safe cooking temp.
  • Keep “Ready” food hot.
  • Don’t reuse platters or utensils that previously held raw meat, poultry or seafood juice to spread to cooked food.
  • Check for foreign objects in food; like a grill brush bristle.

For more information check out, Grilling Safety Tips from National Fire Protection Agency which includes a video on how to do a simple test for checking for gas grill leaks. 

  1. Grill outside and away from any structures or overhanging tree branches
  2. Make sure you grill is stable and cannot be tipped over
  3. Keep your grill clean and remove grease and fat build up
  4. Check for propane leaks on your gas grill
  5. If the flame goes out, wait at least 5 minutes to re-light it.
  6. Be careful around the grill, never let kids or pets play around grill
  7. Be careful with charcoal starter fluid
  8. Wear the right clothing, don’t allow loose clothing to dangle over the grill
  9. Be ready to put out the fire, have baking soda on hand for grease fires and a fire extinguisher available for other fires.


Fire Pit Safety

  1. Always build your fire pit on a level surface
  2. Keep a fire pit at least 10 feet away from your home, fences or trees
  3. Do NOT use gasoline or lighter fluid to start your fire
  4. Maintain a safe distance away from fire, monitor guests, children and pets
  5. Do NOT build a fire pit with river rocks, use dry rough stones
  6. Never leave a fire unattended
  7. Always put your fire out safely, and leave only when it is completely out
  8. Have an emergency plan; keep water, a fire extinguisher or sand on hand to put fires out quickly


Last Updated: 12/14/23