The bluebird says it’s spring, but nothing conjures up summer like burgers sizzling on a charcoal grill.

Whether you’re cooking hot dogs for the family or perfecting your secret barbecue techniques, stay safe and smart with your food. For starters, make sure you cook meat to the proper temperature, avoid cross-contamination and keep foods at safe temperatures.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) offers some helpful tips on staying safe and well fed.

Something important to remember is not all meat needs to be cooked the same way. Cuts of meat such as raw beef, pork, lamb and veal need to be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. A handy way to make sure foods hit the proper temperature is through the use of an electronic food thermometer, some models will even let you know the proper cooking temperatures for different meats.

Raw ground meats, perfect for burgers, have slightly different requirements. Beef, pork, lamb and veal need to cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Cuts of poultry, such as chicken or turkey, require a higher temp: 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Clean cut

While grilling outside, keep cooked and raw foods separate to prevent cross-contamination. Wash your hands in between handling raw and cooked foods, touching a pet, using the bathroom or changing a diaper; make sure to use soap and warm water and lather for at least 20 seconds. These steps can be the difference between a crowd-pleasing meal and a trip to the doctor.

It’s also important to keep your surfaces — such as cutting boards and countertops — clean to prevent the transfer of germs. Use hot, soapy water to clean countertops. Likewise, the FSIS recommends that you clean all cutting boards and dishes in hot water with soap after preparing each food item.

When serving food, don’t use the same plate you brought the food out to the grill. Either wash the plate or use a new one, your safety is worth the extra step.

Small germs, big problems

Hot food needs to stay hot and cold food should stay cold to limit the temperatures at which bacteria thrive. Depending on the food, keep a safe food temperature of either under 40 degrees Fahrenheit or above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This way, food can remain safe and enjoyable.

When serving breakfast, lunch or dinner, make sure food doesn’t sit out for more than two hours, according to the FSIS. And if the outside temperature rises to above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, that time drops to just one hour.

No matter how you grill — propane or charcoal — keep the food hot, the kitchen clean and remember to serve meals fresh.

SafeBee Top Three

1. Cook meats to the proper temperatures and separate raw and cooked food

2. Wash your hands and dishes frequently with hot water and soap

3. Keep foods at the proper temperatures to prevent bacterial growth