Summertime is perfect for grilling and enjoying special events with family and friends. Unfortunately, in all the enjoyment of summer, we sometimes forget to handle food safely. There are 48 million people affected by food-borne illnesses every year in the United States. Here are 10 grilling tips to keep you and your loved ones safe the next time you light up the grill.
n Start the process of making sure food is safe while shopping for groceries. Choose seafood, meat, and poultry last. Place them in plastic bags and keep separated from other foods. Go straight home from the grocery store or use a cooler packed with ice. Refrigerate as quickly as possible. Purchase no more than a day or two before grilling.
n Raw seafood, chicken, and meat should not be rinsed. I know … in the past, you may have always rinsed these foods thinking you were keeping the family safe. Bacteria in the raw juices of these foods can easily spread to other surfaces during rinsing, as much as 3 feet away!
n Grill only completely thawed foods as frozen foods may grill unevenly. Use a safe method (in the refrigerator) to thaw frozen foods. It may take 24 hours for 5 pounds of meat to safely thaw in the refrigerator.
n Marinades are an easy way to add flavor and tenderize foods. Always marinate foods in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Never use the same sauce after cooking that was used as a marinade for the raw food. Most fish are too tender to marinate. Firmer fish like tuna and salmon may be marinated a few minutes — 30 minutes. Chicken, veggies, or tofu may be marinated a few minutes to several hours, while beef and pork can be marinated up to two days.
n When carrying raw food to a picnic site, always pack meats, fish, and chicken in a cooler with ice to keep food at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Keep the cooler out of direct sun.
n A food thermometer is a grilling essential that often gets overlooked. The very best food thermometer for grilling is a digital, tip-sensitive, instant-read thermometer.
n You can’t tell if food is completely cooked just by looking at it. A hamburger can be brown in the middle but not safe. The only way to be sure the food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature is by using a food thermometer, thus, keeping family and friends safe from harmful bacteria that can cause food borne illness.
n All poultry, including ground poultry, should be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook other ground meats to 160 F. Steaks, fish, veal, beef, and lamb should be cooked to 145 F. The Department of Agriculture has announced a new, lower recommended safe cooking temperature for whole cuts of pork of 145 F with the addition of a 3-minute rest time. The safe temperature for cuts of beef, veal, and lamb remains unchanged at 145 F, but a 3-minute rest time is recommended.
n Be sure to place the thermometer in the thickest part of the food and ensure it is not touching bone, fat, or gristle. Check the temperature in several places to make sure it is evenly heated. Begin checking the temperature of the food toward the end cooking time but before you expect it to be completely done. This way the food will taste perfect and will be cooked to a safe temperature. You and your friends and family can enjoy the benefits.
— Additional information on grilling and food safety can be found at www.dietaryguidelines.gov & http://www.fsis.usda.gov/factsheets/barbecue_food_safety/index.asp.
To help you get started grilling, try these recipes from North Carolina Cooperative Extension’s “Cook Smart - Eat Smart” program:
Basic Marinade for Vegetables
— 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
— 4 tablespoons olive oil
— 1 teaspoon thyme or tarragon
1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl or a plastic bag.
2. Add vegetables and marinate in the refrigerator.
Makes enough for 3 to 4 cups of cut vegetables.
Basic Marinade for Beef
— 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
— 4 tablespoons olive oil
— 1 teaspoon oregano
— 1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl or sealable plastic bag.
2. Add beef and marinate in the refrigerator.
Makes enough for 1 to 1½ pounds of beef.
For more information, please contact Janice Fields, Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at (910) 671-3276, by e-mail at Janice_Fields@ncsu.edu, or visit our website at http://robeson.ces.ncsu.edu/.
— Janice Fields is the extension family and consumer sciences agent at the Robeson County Center.