May 1, 2008

Get Ready, Get Set, Get Grilling!

By Carolyn Reiner, Dietetic Intern, Bay Pines Health Care System
Pinellas County Extension, Family & Consumers

Spring is here! With days getting longer and summer right around the grillingcorner, this means one thing- grilling season! Florida’s climate is ideal for year-round grilling. However, over half of Americans surveyed say they cook outdoors in spring and summer more than any other time of the year. Often backyard chefs think they are the experts when it comes to grilling, but unless they follow key food safety practices, their friends and family may want to think twice before taking a seat at the picnic table.

The risk of foodborne illness increases during the summer months because warm weather is ideal for disease-causing bacteria to multiply. Bacteria also need moisture to flourish. Therefore, Florida’s hot and humid summer weather provides the perfect growing conditions. Grilling can be a healthy and delicious way to cook during warm summer months, but remember, safety should always come first!

Here are a few basic tips to keep your grilling a safe, fun-filled success.

Tip #1: Keep Foods at Proper Temperatures

  • Keep food out of the danger zone- bacteria grow best between 40°F and 140°F.

  • When shopping, buy cold food like meat and poultry last.

  • At home, always refrigerate within 2 hours; keep refrigerated until ready to use.

  • Freeze poultry and ground meat that won't be used in 1 or 2 days; freeze other meat within 4 to 5 days.

  • After cooking, keep meat at 140°F or warmer until served.

  • In hot weather (above 90°F), food should never sit out for more than one hour.

  • After cooking, refrigerate any leftovers promptly in shallow containers.

Tip #2: Thaw Safely

  • Completely thaw meat and poultry before grilling so it cooks more evenly.

  • Don’t defrost your meat at room temperature-use the refrigerator for slow, safe thawing.

  • You can use the microwave if the food is to be grilled immediately.

  • Thawing sealed packages in cold water is also acceptable.

Tip #3: Avoid Cross-Contamination

  • Keep your hands clean. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water for 20 seconds after handling uncooked meat to prevent spreading bacteria.

  • Keep kitchen surfaces clean. Use paper towels and hot, soapy water to wipe up meat and poultry juices from countertops and carefully clean all surfaces, plates, utensils, etc. that have come in contact with uncooked meat or poultry.

  • Use clean utensils every time. Never use the same plate, knives or cutting board for raw and cooked meat.

  • Clean outdoor cooking and eating areas. Pack clean cloths, and wet towelettes for cleaning surfaces and hands.
Tip #4: Cook Thoroughly
  • Always use a meat thermometer to ensure the food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature.

  • Color is not a reliable indicator of doneness.

  • NEVER partially grill meat or poultry and finish cooking later.

  • Make sure you cook foods to the proper internal temperature.
    - Steaks & Roasts - 145 °F
    - Fish - 145 °F
    - Pork - 160 °F
    - Ground Beef - 160 °F
    - Chicken Breasts - 165 °F
    - Whole Poultry - 165 °F

For more safe grilling tips check out:

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