By Kent Whitaker

Summer is here! Grills and smokers will be fired up for holidays, family meals, and outdoor dinner parties. Now’s the time to check your outdoor cooking items to make sure they’re in good shape. And, it’s perfect time to a few grilling safety tips into consideration. After all, you don’t want you grill breaking before the steaks are done.

And, as I say during my book signings and chef demo’s; when it comes to food safety you want your guests to remember the wonderful time and tasty meal. Not a trip to the emergency room due to food poisoning. Here’s a brief Summer Grilling Checklist!

GRILL CHECK: Before using a gas grill after it’s been sitting dormant for a while you should check the lines for damage. Replace any worn burners, tighten loose bolts and nuts, clean any rusted areas and clean out debris from the last grilling session! Perform similar maintenance on gas grills and smokers.

PREHEAT: Pre-heat your gas grill before using to burn off any residue from cleaners. When you light the charcoal, or fire up the gas for the first time, you might run off a few insects that have made your grill their home.

CHECK YOUR FUEL: Before the neighbors come over for your cookout you should double check your fuel. There’s nothing wrong with an extra bag of charcoal or making sure you have enough fuel.

CHEF TOOL SPRING CLEANING: Throw away and replace any damaged or rusted utensils, sharpen knifes, and check the batteries in your instant read thermometer.

WASH YOUR HANDS AND SURFACES: This act cuts down on cross contamination. If you don’t have an outdoor sink at your grilling area then simply place several handy wipe containers around for you, and your guests, to use freely. Constantly clean around your cooking area as well.

Man BBq Summer and friendsICE FOR DRINKS & ICE FOR EVERYTHING ELSE: If you’re having more people over than you would for a normal family cookout then plan on having two containers for ice. One container holds cans and bottles of beverages that are covered in ice while a separate container holds clean ice for consumption. An ice scoop should be used as well. Any ice used for keeping food chilled should be separate.

TEMPS: I’m not going to go over all of rules for keeping foods at the proper temperature. What I’ll do instead is give you a rule of thumb that I mention during my chef demos. “Keep the cold food cold and keep the hot food hot.” Always cook your chosen meat to the USDA safe internal temperatures.


Quick and Easy Raspberry BBQ Sauce
Sure, you can make this recipe using fresh ingredients – but, if you’re short on time and you need something fast simply grab some Raspberry Preserves! I call this a “Junk” sauce! Mix a bunch of “junk” together for a quick sauce packed with flavor.

It’s great with chicken wings, pork, turkey, steak and even tuna steaks as well! I’ve even drizzled it over grilled veggies, and used it as a dipping sauce.

1 Bottle of store brand plain barbecue sauce
1/3 cup raspberry jelly or preserves
Dash of brown sugar
Dashes of hot sauce
In a saucepan over low heat – add the raspberry jelly or preserves and stir until melted. Do not boil or over heat. Add about half of the barbecue sauce and a dash of brown sugar and stir. Remove from heat, taste and add more barbecue sauce if desired. Toss in minced onions, hot sauce, liquid smoke… whatever. Just make sure you add only lesser amounts until you get the flavor you want.

Note: You can use orange marmalade, peach preserves, apple jelly – you get the idea.


Kent Whitaker, known as The Deck Chef, is a cookbook, culinary writer and winner of the Emeril Live / Food Network Barbecue Contest. His books are available nationally and include Great American Grilling, Smoke in the Mountains – The Art of Appalachian Barbecue, Checkered Flag Cooking – Tailgating Stock Car Racing and the state by state Hometown Cookbook Series. To date, the series includes the Tennessee Hometown Cookbook, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, West Virginia and South Carolina. Visit him online at or @thekentwhitaker.