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Tackling a Tailgate, Food Safety Wins!

Posted by Tina Hanes and Kathy Bernard, Technical Information Specialists for USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline in Health and Safety
Aug 30, 2013
Grill It Safe Infographic. Click on the image to download a PDF version of the infographic.
Grill It Safe Infographic. Click on the image to download a PDF version of the infographic.

Cross posted from the blog:

It’s tailgate season, are you ready for the kick off? Planning is the key to keeping your food safe during a tailgate so get your gear ready now. Do you have enough coolers, and all the tools you need to cook? In addition to a grill and fuel for cooking make sure you don’t forget your most valuable player, the food thermometer. It’s the only way you can be sure your meat or poultry has reached a safe temperature.

Don’t sideline your guest, stay in the Food Safety Zone

  • Bring water for cleaning if none will be available at the site. Pack clean, wet, disposable cloths or moist towelettes and paper towels for cleaning hands and surfaces.
  • Carry cold perishable food like raw hamburger patties, sausages, and chicken in an insulated cooler packed with several inches of ice, frozen gel packs, or containers of ice.
  • Be sure raw meat and poultry are wrapped securely to prevent their juices from cross-contaminating ready-to-eat food. If possible, store these foods near the bottom of the cooler, so that juices don't contaminate other foods in the cooler.
  • If you can't keep hot food hot during the drive to your tailgate, plan and chill the food in the refrigerator before packing it in a cooler. Reheat the food to 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer.
  • If bringing hot take-out food, eat it within 2 hours of purchase (1 hour if the temperature is above 90 °F).

Know your opponent by defending against bacteria

Use a food thermometer! Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often browns very fast on the outside. Use a food thermometer to be sure the food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature. Using a food thermometer not only keeps your guests safe from harmful food bacteria, but it also helps you to avoid overcooking, giving you safe and flavorful meat. You can find a chart listing the temperatures by visiting Safe Minimum Internal Temperatures on the website.

Listen to USDA’s podcast for more information to help you with your tailgate game plan: Tailgating Food Safety

If you have any questions about tailgating food safety, feel free to contact us at the Hotline (1-888-674-6854 toll-free) or online at

Category/Topic: Health and Safety