With summer on the way, it is time to dust off and fire up the patio grill. Here are some tips to help ensure not only a tasty outdoor meal but also a safe and healthy family experience.
- Wash hands often. Wash hands thoroughly after handling any raw meat, poultry, fish, or eggs. Make this a family rule.
- Make sure that the grill is scrubbed clean before every use. It is important to remove any leftover char or other residue to eliminate cancer-forming compounds and bacteria.
- Keep meat, poultry, and fish separate from other fresh foods such as salad items, vegetables and fruit. This lessens the chance of bacterial contamination and food poisoning.
- Keep foods cold until serving or grilling. Use insulated coolers and keep them in the shade when at a picnic area.
- Thaw meats in the fridge, not on the counter. Again, this lessens the chance of food poisoning.
- Marinate meats before grilling in a citrus or vinegar-based marinade to help reduce cancer-forming compounds. Do not reuse the liquid unless you boil it first.
- Place meats close enough to the coals to cook evenly throughout but not close enough to burn. If meats, poultry, or fish are too close to the coals, the outside will cook but the inside will not reach a temperature necessary to kill bacteria.
- Use clean dishes and serving utensils to transfer cooked food from the grill to the plate. Dishes and utensils used for raw food and then not cleaned with hot, soapy water could be a source of bacteria and contaminate grilled or fresh food items.
- If partially precooking foods, make sure to place these items immediately on the grill. Or, cook completely, cool until needed, and then warm on the grill.
- Avoid charring meat. Cook to medium instead of well done.
- Avoid flare-ups, another source of cancer-causing compounds. Dripping fat can cause flame flare-ups, so trim the fat on meats and keep a spray bottle close by to put out flares.
- Use a food thermometer to check doneness. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that whole poultry, chicken breasts, and ground poultry reach 165 degrees. Other ground meats should reach 160 degrees. Beef, pork, lamb, or veal steaks, roasts, and chop should reach 145 degrees and then be allowed to rest for at least three minutes.
- If you are new to grilling or would like a refresher on operating a grill, check out the safety tips offered by the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA).
Now go out and enjoy your grill!