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Food Safety Sparklers: Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill

Posted by Beverly Lopez, Communications Program Specialist, Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), USDA in Health and Safety
Jul 02, 2024
A person holding the U.S. flag and fireworks with the Summer Served Safe FSIS logo

Throwing a celebratory BBQ gathering this Fourth of July does not have to be stressful when it comes to the menu and food safety. As you prepare to welcome a large gathering of family and friends, keep these core food safety practices in mind:

  • Clean—Wash hands and surfaces often. Hands should be washed for 20 seconds with clean water and soap. If no running water is available, use hand sanitizer or moist towelettes that contain at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Separate—Separate raw meats from other foods to avoid cross-contamination of harmful bacteria. Use separate cutting boards when preparing raw meat and poultry and other foods that are ready to eat, and use different utensils and platters when placing raw foods on the grill or smoker and taking cooked foods off.
  • Cook—Cook food to the safe minimum internal temperature as measured with a food thermometer. Burgers and other thin foods, such as sausages and boneless chicken thighs, should have the thermometer inserted through the side and into the center to get the most accurate thermometer reading.
  • Chill—Refrigerate food promptly within two hours (or one hour if the temperature is over 90 F). Keep hot foods hot above 140 F and cold foods cold below 40 F to avoid the Danger Zone. Hot foods like burgers, hot dogs, and chicken can be kept hot by placing them on a grill on low, in heated chafing dishes, or in a slow cooker, and cold foods like deviled eggs, salads, and guacamole can be nestled in a bed of ice.

For more information about food safety, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854), email, or chat live at from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday to reach a food safety specialist in English or Spanish.

Category/Topic: Health and Safety