By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s one of the perks of summer weather – grilling outdoors. A safe and healthy summer cookout begins before the meat hits the grill and as 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan reminds us, it continues after the plates are cleared from the table.

A safe cookout begins long before firing up the grill, starting with the meat at the grocery store. Tricia Calvo, Deputy Health Editor at Consumer Reports says, “You want to choose cuts of meat that aren’t too thick because when you cook food, the outside will get charred and the inside won’t cook.”

Cooks should also start with a clean grill. a wire brush and a paper towel moistened in salt water, should remove most residue.

And some longtime grillers may think they can wing it, but another purchase is key to keeping healthy, a food thermometer. Calvo says, “Part of any healthy grillers tool kit should be a good meat thermometer, because meat can carry bacteria, and if it’s not thoroughly cooked that bacteria can make you, your family and your guests sick.”

Steak and fish should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, ground beef and pork to 160 degrees and chicken and other poultry to 165.

Also avoid using the same plate for the raw meat, as your serving plate. According to Calvo, “That just defeats the whole purpose of cooking your meat properly, because the bacteria from the raw meat juices can get on to the food and then make you sick. So use two separate plates.”

Finally, don’t forget to serve those hot foods right off of the grill, and remember cold dishes can spoil easily when left in the summer sun.

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