Safe Picnics and Barbecues: Protect your Outdoor Meals from Bacteria

The warmth of the sun, the singing of birds, and the aroma of grilled food remind us that it’s time for picnics and barbecues. But did you know that it’s crucial to keep your food safe from bacteria while enjoying it outdoors? Additionally, it’s useful to know what your favorite dishes contribute to your overall health. Here are some tips to guide you.

  1. Keep things cold

Bacteria thrive in warmth. So, when you bring perishable foods like meats or salads with mayonnaise, use a cooler. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggests that food should not be left out for more than 2 hours without refrigeration (1 hour if the temperature is above 90°F). Invest in ice packs or have plenty of ice on hand to keep foods cold.

  1. Cook at the right temperature

Not all meats must be cooked to the same temperature. A food thermometer is the best way to know you are keeping your food safe. For instance, burgers should reach 160°F, while chicken should get to 165°F.

  1. Keep things separate

When outdoor cooking, make sure you have enough equipment or a way to clean your equipment. Cooked food should not touch equipment that was used with raw foods without being cleaned properly. If you can’t clean it, bring enough to use separate equipment.

  1. Wash your hands… Always!

The FDA also emphasizes that washing your hands before cooking and eating is essential to prevent the spread of bacteria. If you don’t have access to water, use wet wipes or hand sanitizer. Washing is the best choice.

Enjoying the outdoors doesn’t mean compromising your health or that of your loved ones. By following these tips, you ensure a picnic or barbecue full of flavor, and most importantly, free from bacteria!

Veggie Kabobs Recipe

Veggie kabobs are a colorful, delicious, and healthy option for grilling season. They’re easy to prepare and versatile, allowing you to use whatever vegetables you have on hand or prefer.


Optional: 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar or lemon juice for a zesty flavor

Wooden or metal skewers (if using wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes prior to prevent burning)


  1. Prepare the Marinade: In a large bowl, combine olive oil, minced garlic, oregano (or Italian seasoning), salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar or lemon juice (if using). Mix well.
  2. Marinate the Veggies: Add the cut vegetables to the bowl and toss them until they’re well coated with the marinade. Let them marinate for at least 20 minutes. If you have time, you can leave them in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight for even better flavor.
  3. Thread the Veggies: Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. Thread the marinated veggies onto the skewers. Try to vary the colors and types of veggies on each skewer for a visually appealing result.
  4. For Grilling: Place the kabobs on the grill and cook for about 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally, until the veggies are tender and slightly charred.
  5. Serve: Remove the veggie kabobs from the grill and let them rest for a few minutes. Serve them hot, perhaps with a side of rice, quinoa, or your favorite dip like tzatziki or hummus.

Tip: The veggie combinations are endless. Feel free to add or substitute with other vegetables like eggplant, green bell pepper, or even chunks of corn on the cob. Enjoy your healthy and vibrant veggie kabobs!

Written by Irisvette Lagoa and Elizabeth C. Shephard


USDA. (2020, July 31). Leftovers and Food Safety.

USDA. (2020, May 11). Safe Minimum Internal Temperature Chart.


Elizabeth Shephard, Family and Consumer Science Agent with UF/IFAS Brevard County
Posted: May 24, 2024

Category: Food Safety, Health & Nutrition, UF/IFAS Extension, Work & Life
Tags: Cook, Cool, Eating, Food, Grilling, Handwashing, Health, Kabobs, Nutrition, Outdoors, Picnic, Safety, Separate, Vegetables

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