My planning for my big camping trip meal is underway. The shopping list has been created for our Saturday night meal of fajitas for 85 people (less than a 100 people this year!).

Now I’m thinking of my prep directions for my different crews- in particular my food safety monitoring of my crew who will be grilling the beef and chicken.

What are your strategies on being food safe with regards to tongs and the handling of raw meat around a grill?

Do you have two different tongs- one for raw, one for cooked?
What about the meat when its half raw (cooked bottom- raw top) ?
Do you just ‘cook’ your raw tongs over the grill to clean them and use them for the handling of cooked meat?

Do you soak your tongs in salt water?

So many questions on this one…


posted July 28th, 2008 at 10:08 pm

Now, maybe I have the food safety sense of an idiot, but I’ve always just used my hands to put the stuff on the grill, washed them immediately afterward, and then used the tongs to turn things over, and then the same tongs (unwashed) to take things off the grill. I’ve been doing it this way for as long as I can remember, and have yet to get sick.

And I would think this would only be an issue with poultry, really – beef and pork are normally cooked medium rare to medium in these parts.

posted July 29th, 2008 at 4:06 am

While my grilling experience is not extensive, I’ve always been told that you have a two separate areas/utensils for uncooked and cooked meat (best if on opposite sides of the grill). Use the utensils/plate/etc for the uncooked at the beginning and when flipping, but once the meat has reached is cooked switch to the other utensils/plate/etc to minimize potential contamination.

It’s a bit extra in terms of supplies and dish washing later, but it is supposed to be safer.

- Jen
posted July 29th, 2008 at 5:04 am

We normally use 2 tongs or wash in between the point when it is totally raw and the part when it is mostly cooked.

posted July 29th, 2008 at 11:02 am

I don’t have bbq-ing experience but when I use tongs at home I usually put them in boiling water in between turns. Boiling pasta water or water for cooking vegetables or potatoes. That way I hope to kill whatever is on there ;) Maybe you could boil some water in a small pan and just put it on the bbq too? Just a thought…

posted July 29th, 2008 at 2:04 pm

I use the same pair of tongs from raw to the first turn and then a clean pair once the meat is cooked. If I am also using the regular burner outside, then I will dip tongs into boiling water, but that is rare.

I always have the raw food on the left and the cooked food on the right of the grill, so I am moving things in a left to right direction.

Of greater importance is keeping the sheet pans containg ingredients high enough off the wall to stop the ants from getting into them. I use little plastic supports for flower pots under the pans to elevate them enough. Works well even for the pans containing hot cooked food. I don’t want bug sprays anywhere near the food!


posted July 31st, 2008 at 12:17 am

We are Texan savage transplants, but we sure do have a LOT of grilling experience. I always season and prep my meat with my hands (that’s what they make soap for!) and then use my hands to put it on the grill. After that we either get a new plate/tray/whatever or wash the one we just used (depending on how backed up we are on dish duty) to prepare for taking the meat off the grill. We have *one* set of designated grill tongs and they are long and metal and get grilled right along with the meat to avoid allowing nasty germies to survive. Similar to the first commenter said, maybe I just have the food safety sense of a moron.

posted August 3rd, 2008 at 10:16 pm

Ok, I know we have been programmed to believe that the second we come into contact with raw meat, we will die an instantaneous yet still horrible death (especially for me, as someone born in the early 80′s with no memory of the pre-salmonella crazed world). But there is one truth to keep in mind here…. though safety and caution are always rewarded, if meat is safe (as almost all meat in developed countries is) it should not make you sick.

All this ‘use two tongs’ business is an EXTRA precaution. So basically, if you mess up and accidentally use your raw tongs instead of your 65% cooked tongs, don’t worry about it.

As far as I’m concerned, use your hands till it’s on the fire… after that use the same pair for the rest of the event. After all, you should only touch meat three times while grilling, once to put it on (hands), once to flip (tongs), once to remove (tongs). If it freaks you out, just give em a quick wash before the very end.


- molly
posted August 5th, 2008 at 6:09 am

Amen to loosening up. Can you say steak tartar? Sashimi? Sushi?

- Joe
posted August 7th, 2008 at 8:26 am

I think as long as the meat you buy is high-quality, you shouldn’t have to worry about cross-contamination. However, a lot of ground beef sort of freaks me out (I’m assuming you’re making burgers)– it’s a combination of many animals, all ground up together, instead of being one source. I try and have the butcher grind the meat for me when I buy it so I know it comes from one animal and a specific cut of meat. If you’re making a lot of burgers, this seems quite feasible.

As far as the chicken goes, I’d echo what the folks above have said– put it on the grill by hand, use tongs after that. If you’re using metal tongs, just get them really hot over the coals to kill any badiess you might be worried about. Probably not what the CDC would advise but we grill about three times a week practically year round– beef, fish, chicken, pork, everything– and we’ve never had any ill effects.

I firmly believe that when it comes to meat and food safety, the keys are to buy high-quality meats from places where you know they are careful with their meat and then keep cold food cold and hot food hot.

posted August 23rd, 2008 at 8:38 pm

These are good questions and there are some good comments. If you practice basic food safety – you are fine. Raw meat is raw meat and if you have handled it correctly, there isn’t a big issue. It is important to move quickly, clean up the cutting boards, not reuse plates where raw meat has been to serve cooked meat, etc. Common sense.

The most critical issue I find is people don’t clean the grates on the grill nor their grill often enough. The grease builds up inside the grill and crusty stuff on the grates – and it ain’t seasoning bubba, it’s rotten food grease!

I grill a lot. Most every day and often times it’s production grilling. So yes, I do use two trays and two sets of tongs, the tongs are color coded RED for raw and on the left side of the grill (I tend to start on the left side and have the burner or coals the hottest on that side to sear the meat first) and I use tongs with black handles on the right side where the coals are either banked for indirect heat or the burners are turned very low and the meat is placed into trays were it finishes. I purchase them at the restaurant supply store.

I do use food safe gloves for handling many meats and especially if I’m going to be adding a rub or other seasoning to the meat – because I want to keep the seasoning out of my skin pores! And it just makes good sense.

- CB
posted September 16th, 2008 at 10:35 am

I usually set the tongs in the coals for a couple of seconds after they’ve touched raw meat.

- Mostly Running.

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