Nothing can ruin a fantastic day of barbecuing faster than someone getting sick after eating food you prepared. Whether you are grilling in the back yard, catering for a group of friends and family, or preparing bbq food in a restaurant for hundreds of customers each day, you need to follow safe food preparation techniques.
Keeping it cold
When shopping for food, purchase meat and poultry just before you leave the store. Food in the grocery store is stored at temperatures of below 40 degrees and needs to maintained below 40 degrees whenever possible. Food should be referigerated after the drive home as soon as possible. Allowing the temperature of the food to rise above 40 degrees for any length of time increases the possibility of bacteria growth.
Vacuum seal bulk purchases
I often purchase food in bulk to save money. Meat that is not going to be consumed within a couple of days should be frozen. I like to vacuum seal large quantities into smaller packages. For example, if we buy a package of 16 pork chops, I split the chops into packets of 4, vacuum seal them, mark the package with the date, and then place it in the freezer until we are ready to prepare them.
As meat begins to thaw, juices can sometimes escape the packaging and cross-contamination can occur. Vacuum sealing is another way to help prevent cross-contamination between meat and poultry when storing or transporting food. When handling chicken, thoroughly wash your hands and any knives and utensils with hot, soapy water before using the utensils to cut other meat.
Always marinade meat and poultry in the refrigerator. Contrary to some advice I've read recently on a very popular bbq forum, never, never, allow meat to marinade at room temperature. Meat should be marinated in the refrigerator. When removing marinated food from the refrigerator, place it directly on the smoker or grill for cooking.
Pre-heat your cooker to ensure that you attain a 140 degree internal meat temperature within 4 hours. Do not allow meat to remain in the danger zone (i.e. greater than 40 degrees and less than 140 degrees) for more than 4 hours.
For more food safety tips and information, there's a nice article on the USDA website that should help.