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The right way to defrost chicken: 5 easy tips for safe fall grilling

Joy Bauer helps you plan the perfect, and perfectly simple, cookout.
Joy Bauer on Megyn Kelly TODAY
Joy Bauer on Megyn Kelly TODAYTODAY
/ Source: TODAY

Fall weather is the perfect time for cookouts and tailgating with your family and friends. Unfortunately, bacteria and harmful bugs can sometimes show up to the fiesta uninvited (the worst type of party crashers!). Stay safe from food-borne illnesses by following these simple tips for summer eating. Then, pass the coleslaw!

1. Pack two separate coolers: one for drinks and one for food.

People tend to reach for chilled beverages most frequently. Each time they do this, cold air escapes, causing the food to reach warmer temperatures where bacteria likes to grow.

2. Follow the rule of two.

Prepared foods shouldn't be left out of the refrigerator for more than two hours (and if it's a really hot day, stick to one hour). That’s because bacteria grows rapidly when food temperatures are between 40°-140°F. It’s actually known as the temperature “Danger Zone,” so you know it’s serious.

3. Defrost poultry and meat in the fridge, not on the counter.

You do not want to defrost your meat on the counter, for risk it will enter the aforementioned temperature “danger zone.” Instead, plan ahead and defrost your meat in the fridge. If you're in a pinch for time and need to defrost quickly, simply place the meat in a resealable bag and then fully submerge it in a large bowl filled with cold water. Let it sit, changing the water with fresh cold water as it warms, until the meat is fully thawed.

4. Don't reuse leftover marinade from raw meat or poultry.

Once the marinade comes in contact with raw meat, it can contain harmful bacteria, so don’t plan to reuse it as sauce for your cooked meat later. Instead, set aside some of the marinade before it mingles with the raw meat, and use that portion as your sauce. And if you’ve already mixed all your marinade with the raw meat before you read this, here’s a plan B: you can boil the marinade to get rid of the bacteria — problem solved. Here's a simple marinade that’s delicious on fish, chicken and beef.

5. Invest in a food thermometer.

It's next to impossible to know when your poultry and other meats are cooked, and people tend to risk eating undercooked meat if they don't check the temperature. Do yourself a favor a purchase a food thermometer to make sure meat and poultry is cooked to the proper internal temperature (165°F for all poultry, 160°F for other ground meats, and 145°F for beef, pork and lamb steaks and roasts).

These meat thermometers are highly-rated by Amazon grillers.

You can also purchase this item at

This wireless digital meat thermometer monitors food up to 300 feet away.

2. Alpha Grillers Instant Read Meat Thermometer, $20, Amazon

You'll have an accurate temperature read in five seconds or less.

3. Mayetori Digital Instant Read Cooking Thermometer Fork, $16, Amazon

You can choose between measuring the temps of eight different meats.

For healthy tips and recipes, follow Joy on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook and check out her cookbook From Junk Food to Joy Food.