Tailgating and Food Safety

Tailgating is a necessity during this time of the year. Follow these tips and tricks to ensure you’re serving food that is safe to your friends and family.

Keep meat cool. Keep uncooked meat in the fridge or cooler up until it’s time for the grill. Make sure you thaw meat in the refrigerator or in a cold water bath in the sink (put the meat in a plastic zippered bag), never defrost on the counter. If you’re marinating the meat, make sure to keep it in the fridge and don’t use the marinade on cooked meats unless you boil it first.

Have separate coolers. Keep beverages and ready to eat foods such as fruit in a different cooler than one with raw meats. This helps to prevent cross-contamination with foods and drinks you plan to enjoy immediately.

Keep coolers cold. The best way to pack a cooler is to fill it 75% with food and drinks and then pour the ice to take up the rest of the space. When transporting the cooler, put it inside the car with AC, not in the hot trunk. Once you have reached your tailgating spot, keep the cooler in the shade with the lid closed.

Bring spare utensils and plates. Make sure the plate you used to bring the raw meat to the grill is not the same plate you use to serve the cooked burgers, chicken breasts, etc.  Same goes for the utensils you use to put the raw meat on the grill.

Don’t trust your eyes. Use a grill thermometer like this one. Make sure you put it in the thickest part of the meat, avoiding bone and fat. Poultry should be cooked to 165°F.Ground meat should be cooked to 160°F. Steak, pork, and seafood should be cooked 145°F.

Two hours is the max. Don’t leave food sitting out any longer. If it’s 90°F or hotter outside, only leave food out for 1 hour. The food “Danger Zone” is between 40-140°F. The goal is to keep cold foods below 40°F and hot foods above 140°F.  This rule goes for all food including fruits and vegetables, not just meats and potato salads. A good trick is to set an alarm on your phone to help remind you when food needs to go back in the cooler. When the tailgate is over, only keep foods that weren’t out past the 1 or 2 hour mark (depending on the temperature outdoors).


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