SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - It's as American as fireworks on the 4th of July: The barbecue.
But the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health warns that food poisoning is a big threat this time of year.
"You just want to have fun, you don't want to get hung up on all these rules, but you want to make sure that your food is safe the whole time," says Angelea Bruce, a Registered Dietician with Sharp Healthcare.
The Food and Drug Administration lists four steps to take to increase your food safety; Clean, Separate, Cook & Chill.
Clean means more than just washing your hands. It also includes washing your food and the tables and food prep areas you plan to use.
Separate raw meats from everything else you plan to serve. Keep it in its own cooler. Use different cutting boards for meat and veggies (and wash the one for meat after it's had anything raw on it). When defrosting meat or chicken, put it on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to keep it from dripping on anything else.
When cooking, make sure you cook all meat completely. Cook steaks and chops to 140 degrees. Ground beef should be 160 degrees. Chicken should cook to 165. Use a meat thermometer to make sure.
"They're not suggestions if you don't want to get a foodborne illness," says Bruce. "Those are the temperatures that have been shown to kill the bacteria that can cause illnesses that make people really sick."
Finally, for Chill, keep all of your food cold until you're ready to start cooking or eating. Cold items should be kept at 40 degrees. If you have something hot, like food from a restaurant, keep it at 140 degrees in an insulated container until you're ready to serve.
And once you put the food out, the clock is ticking. Eat everything within 2 hours of serving. If the weather is above 90 degrees, eat it within an hour. Then get rid of anything that's left.
"Don't take home leftovers," says Bruce. "When in doubt, throw it out."