VANCOUVER -- Many British Columbians are planning end-of-summer barbecues, though they may be smaller because of the pandemic. But you should start planning your meal now and thinking about food safety. Thawing burgers or other foods the wrong way could make you sick, and nothing ruins a party like food poisoning.

Like many of us, Josenny Teneo saves money and time using her freezer. 

"My strategy is to buy the food in bulk and separate into small pieces," she says. 

But even with her freezer fully stocked, getting dinner on the table can take a little planning. You should never leave food out on a counter to thaw, and don’t run it under hot water. 

"Those methods can allow parts of the food to reach temperatures above 40 degrees (Fahrenheit)," says Sana Mujahid with Consumer Reports. "(That) enables any bacteria there to multiply quickly and may lead to foodborne illness."

The safest way to thaw food is always in the refrigerator because it will maintain a safe temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or 4.4 degrees Celsius. But that means planning. The larger the item, the more time it needs to thaw. A pound of frozen ground beef or boneless chicken takes a full day.

After thawing, poultry and seafood remain safe in the fridge for a day or two. And red meats are safe for three to five days after thawing, so you’ve got some time before you have to cook.

If you need dinner on the table faster, cold-water thawing can speed things up. 

"You should place frozen food, like raw meat, in a leak-proof plastic bag," Mujahid says. Then put it in a bowl of cold tap water. For larger cuts of meat, you’ll want to change the water every 30 minutes. It should take about an hour to thaw a pound of meat, and once fully thawed, you should cook it immediately.

If you need to defrost food even faster, there’s a “thaw” setting on your microwave. But portions of the food may begin to cook during the cycle, encouraging bacterial growth, so foods thawed in a microwave should be cooked immediately.

In addition to thawing meat safely, you also need to cook it safely. A meat thermometer can help make sure your food has been cooked to a safe internal temperature to kill any bacteria that may be present.

With files from Consumer Reports