From Fourth of July cookouts to entertaining visiting relatives, summertime is a season that brings together loved ones and lots of food.

Keeping your family and friends safe from foodborne illness this summer can mean doing something as simple as using a food thermometer when grilling meat, poultry, and fish. Unfortunately, recent research by USDA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that only 24 percent of the public uses a food thermometer when cooking hamburgers and only 42 percent do so when cooking chicken.

Prevent and avoid foodborne illness by following 3-PRO steps when cooking meat or poultry on the grill:

P—Place the Thermometer

When you think your food is cooked, check the internal temperature by inserting the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat (usually about 1.5 to 2 inches deep).  If you are cooking a thinner piece of meat, like chicken breasts or hamburger patties, insert the thermometer from the side.  Make sure that the probe reaches the center of the meat.

R—Read the Temperature

Wait about 10 to 20 seconds for an accurate temperature reading.  Use the following safe internal temperature guidelines for your meat and poultry.

  • Beef, Pork, Lamb, and Veal (steaks, roasts, chops) and Fish: 145°F (or 63°C) with a 3-minute rest time
  • Ground meats: 160°F (or 71°C)
  • Whole poultry, poultry breasts, & ground poultry: 165°F (or 74°C)

O—Off the Grill

Once the meat and poultry reach their safe minimum internal temperatures, take the food off the grill and place it onto a clean platter.  Don’t put cooked food on the same platter that held raw meat or poultry.  Also, remember to clean your food thermometer probe with hot, soapy water.

Now that you’re grilling like a PRO, it’s important to remember to keep your food at a safe temperature during your entire cookout.  Perishable food should not be left out for more than two hours.  In hot weather (above 90°F), food should never sit out for more than one hour.

Happy grilling!

Need more food safety information? Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at (1-888-674-6854) Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, or email or chat at AskKaren.gov