Celebrate safely: How to avoid making your guests sick at your 4th of July cookout

A lot of you may be planning to grill out to celebrate the 4th of July and the last thing you want to do is put your friends and family at risk of foodborne illness.

“Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Wash your hands,” warns Cleveland Clinic registered dietician Alexis Supan.

She says clean hands should be one of the cook’s number one priorities and says it’s best to use classic soap and water -- especially before and after handling raw meat.

“And then keep any kind of meats or raw items separate from your vegetables so there’s no cross-contamination,” she added.

Thoroughly clean your cutting boards or surfaces that come into contact with raw meat before using them for anything else too.

While grilling, make sure juices from the meats you’re cooking aren’t dripping onto other items. And remember to cook meat to a safe temperature, but don’t overcook it. Supan warns that charring it can produce cancer-causing chemicals.

Letting your prepared foods sit out too long is another safety issue.

“Be sure to put that food away when you’re done enjoying it. I know cookouts, a lot of times, we like to socialize. Don’t let the food sit out for those long periods while you’re hanging out with friends and family,” Supan said.

With it being so hot outside, Supan said it’s crucial to not let cooked food sit out for more than one hour and no more than two hours at room temperature.

But if you store leftovers properly, they will last longer.

“My best tip for storing leftovers is to store them in a glass or ceramic, airtight container,” she said. “If you do that, then they can be good up to three to four days in your refrigerator. Now the reason I suggest glass or ceramic is because if you’re putting any fattier foods, like a sausage, into a plastic container -- especially if it’s kind of recently off the grill and it’s hot – it can actually react with those plastics.”

Supan adds that grilling can be a healthy alternative to other cooking methods, but it all depends on what you’re making. She said rather than grilling up a sausage or hot dog, marinated chicken breasts or salmon fillets are some healthier options.