Outdoor grilling is a fun way to cook food for family and friends.

Although we often think about grilling outdoors as a summertime activity, many people cook outdoors all year.

To keep your cookouts safe and fun, follow these simple steps before, during and after grilling to ensure a clean workspace and safe food preparation.

Before you begin

 Choose meat, poultry, or seafood that is fresh and high quality.

As soon food is purchased, immediately store.

Cook or freeze fresh poultry, fish, seafood or ground beef within one to two days; other meat like steak and pork chops should be cooked or frozen within four to five days.

 Thaw safely. The best way to thaw is by placing the frozen meat, fish, poultry or seafood in the refrigerator.

This lets the food thaw completely and cooks evenly.

 Marinate foods safely to add flavor, not germs. A marinade is a type of sauce used to tenderize or add flavor to foods.

The amount of needed depends on the quantity you are cooking. A good rule is 1/3 cup of marinade per pound of meat or poultry.

Marinate up to two hours if adding flavor. For tenderizing, marinate up to twenty-four hours.

Keep foods safe

 Raw meat, poultry, or seafood should be tightly wrapped or stored in a sealed bag or container. Do not keep other foods in the same cooler as raw meat, poultry or seafood.

 Store beverages and other perishable foods in separate coolers.

Stay clean

Keeping hands, cooking area and cooking utensils clean can reduce the spread of harmful germs to food. Keep in mind that hand sanitizers can reduce germs but they will not be as effective if hands have visible dirt on them.

Also, be sure to wash work surfaces and cutting boards with hot, soapy water and sanitize before and after grilling.

If you have any questions on this topic, please contact the Harrison County Extension Office at 903.935.8414.