Friends, we’re just a few days away from a long Fourth of July weekend. I don’t know about you, but I’m hoping that one of my friends is ready to fire up the grill so we can celebrate our nation’s independence. After all, nothing says “long weekend” quite like a gathering of friends, good food and fun.

I’ve been to a lot of great Fourth of July celebrations across our state. I have a few favorites, but I can tell you the most memorable was in 2006. It involved undercooked chicken. It was a little pink. I turned a little green.

Ever since then, I’ve always done my due diligence to ensure that doesn’t happen to guests at our holiday cookouts.

The key is to make sure all meat is thoroughly cooked. Use a meat thermometer. If you can’t remember what temperature you need to cook beef, chicken or pork to, this chart from is handy. I have it hanging in my kitchen.

Worried about your potato salad at the cookout? Just make sure it stays cool.

Keep your food prep surfaces clean. I’m a big fan of disinfectant wipes. I clean down a surface both before and after I use it to prepare food. And I wash my hands all the time.

Whether you’re celebrating on a boat, the beach or your best friend’s backyard, just remember that celebrating our freedom should be about fun, food and fellowship. Let’s not taint it with bad food.

Happy Fourth of July, y’all!