Backyard chefs may think they know best when it comes to grilling that perfect burger, steak or barbeque chicken, but unless they follow key food safety practices their friends and family may wish to think twice before taking a seat at the picnic table.

"The risk of foodborne illness increases during the summer months because disease-causing bacteria grow faster on raw meat and poultry products in warmer weather," said USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Richard Raymond. "Bacteria also need moisture to flourish and summer weather, often hot and humid, provides the perfect conditions."

USDA’s four key recommendations can help keep friends and family safe from foodborne illness:

  • Clean – Wash hands and surfaces often.
  • Separate – Don’t cross-contaminate. Keep raw meat and poultry apart from cooked foods.
  • Cook – Use a food thermometer to be sure meat and poultry are safely cooked.
  • Chill – Refrigerate or freeze promptly.