It’s cookout season. Here’s how to prevent food poisoning and store leftovers

May 28, 2019 GMT

Cookout and barbecue season means a lot of leftovers -- but how long is food safe? A few basics can help you prevent food poisoning this year.

According to Lindsay Malone, a dietitian with the Cleveland Clinic, timing and temperature are important.

“Anything that’s been sitting out for more than two hours, you probably shouldn’t save,” Malone said.

Malone said food also has to do with the “temperature danger zone.” For cold foods, the food safe temperature is 40 degrees and below. For hot foods, the safe temperature is above 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

When food is above or below those temperatures, bacteria begins to grow.


According to Malone, a smart serving strategy can help keep food safe.

“Stick with smaller serving dishes -- but have your backup in the fridge to pull out halfway through so that you can keep things at a good, healthy temperature,” Malone said.

Cookout favorites like pasta and potato salad have ingredients that can go bad quickly, so you’re better off throwing those leftovers away.

To make coleslaw or salads last, Malone said, put the dressing on the side to help keep moisture out. When the party is over, pack it up properly.

“You want to use shallow containers,” Malone said. “You want to bring the food to room temperature before it goes into the refrigerator.”

After food is packed away, you only have 2 to 3 days to eat those leftovers. And, when in doubt, always throw food out.

It’s also smart to keep leftover away from pets. According to the American Kennel Club, says many cookout foods, especially grill cooked meats, are not safe for your pet.