Expert Alert: SPH’s Melanie Firestone Provides Tips for Safe Outdoor Cooking

Virgil McDill | July 24, 2023

As thousands of people across the state head to backyards, cabins, parks, and other gathering places to enjoy meals in the great outdoors, Melanie Firestone from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health (SPH) has advice for safe outdoor cooking.

Melanie Firestone, PhD

“As we spend more time outside, make sure to keep food safety a priority. For example, don’t let your meal sit out in the sun for long periods. Ideally, food should sit outside for two hours maximum, and cut that down to one hour when the air temperature gets to 90 F or higher.

“If you’re marinating food for the grill, keep it in the refrigerator (not on counters or outdoors), and throw out marinades and sauces that have touched raw meat and raw meat juices. 

“Also, avoid cross contamination by using separate cutting boards and utensils for raw and cooked foods, and always remove cooked meat from the grill with clean utensils and plates. A food thermometer is always good to have on hand to make sure your meat is grilled to a safe internal temperature, which is generally 165 F for poultry, 160 F for ground meats, and 145 F for steaks, roasts and fish. And steaks and roasts should have a 3 minute rest time once they come off the grill.”

SPH Assistant Professor Melanie Firestone’s research explores the intersection of infectious diseases and environmental health. Her areas of expertise include foodborne diseases, food safety, infectious diseases, epidemiology, and outbreak investigations. She is particularly interested in the role restaurants play in foodborne illness transmission and prevention and how food safety messages are communicated to the public.

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