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Memorial Day Weekend food safety tips - cooking a delicious meal without getting you or your guests sick

Food safety for your Memorial Day cookouts
Food safety for your Memorial Day cookouts 02:56

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - It's Memorial Day weekend and that means chances are you're firing up the grill but you don't want any of your party guests leaving your house and getting sick. 

So, let's run down some things you want to keep in mind for the sake of food safety. 

Besides the obvious - make sure everyone handling food washes up and the rest is about temperature, temperature, and temperature. 

Whether it's burgers, dogs, steak, or chicken, it just seems to taste better on a holiday weekend but you'll want to keep food out of the temperature danger zone. 

"If there's bacteria present, it's going to grow fast," explained Penn State Food Safety Expert Mary Alice Gettings. 

That's what makes you sick, so here are the numbers to imprint on your brain: "40 to 140 degrees - that is the temperature where bacteria can grow very rapidly." 

Gettings said that means the cold foods need to stay under 40 degrees and the hot foods over 140. If you're putting food out for a crowd, it's probably going to slip into that danger zone. 

"You have two hours before you have to put them in the refrigerator and then if it's close to the 90-degree temperature you have an hour," she said. 

Gettings explained you can help extend the comfort zone with cold foods by putting them on ice. 

Temperatures are key when cooking so make sure you have a cooking thermometer. 

"The hamburger temperature should be 160 degrees in the middle," she explained. "You should not eat pink hamburgers, pink hamburgers could have E.coli. As for chicken, it's 165 degrees in the thickest part." 

Then for steak, it's 145 degrees, but make sure it rests three minutes after cooking. 

"Cross-contamination is one of the biggest causes of foodborne illnesses," Gettings said. 

So, Gettings said to be careful about your cooking utensils - a spatula only touches the cooked side of the meat and tongs should be replaced when you're cooking chicken because you don't want to contaminate the side of the chicken that has been cooked. 

You also should never put cooked food on a plate that was used for raw food. 

Finally, the key is not to leave anything out over two hours before you get it into the fridge, but that two-hour clock only pauses the bacteria growth. When you get out the leftovers, eat them immediately. 

Gettings also made this point, and not just for this weekend, when you grocery shop, make sure that the meat is the last thing you get before checkout and get it home to the fridge as soon as possible. 

You don't want to drive around with meat warming in the back of your car. 

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