Grilling Safety 101

There are few things that are more pleasing than the smell of food grilling on the barbeque. Grilling often includes family, friends and neighbors and provides an opportunity to have a great time while enjoying the outdoors.

Grilling and meat safety begins at the store. It is important to choose packages that feel cold to the touch and aren’t torn when deciding which cut of beef or package of chicken to purchase. Place the meat in plastic bags, such as those found in the produce area, to keep the juices from dripping on other food products.

Unfortunately, many stores place meat sections at the back of the store to get people further in to purchase other products. If possible, make fresh meats the last items to go into your cart and keep them separate from other ready-cooked items.

At the check stand, have the cashier bag the raw meats separately from other items and go directly home. Remember that the hotter it is outside, the less time you have to get your food home safely. In some instances you may want to pack a cooler with ice for these items.

Once you get home you should put your meat directly into the refrigerator or freezer unless you plan on grilling it in the next 24 to 48 hours. In this case, the refrigerator should be sufficient. Never leave raw meat, poultry or any other perishable food out at room temperature for more than two hours (one hour at 90°F and above).

But wait, aren’t we supposed to be talking about grilling safety? Grilling safely is simple; the most critical steps are to keep your raw meat cold, your cooked meat hot and protect your other food or eating utensils from touching the raw meat or juices. Firing up the grill, cleaning it and getting the right temperature is key to any grilling experience but one thing many people miss is how they get their meat to and from the grill. To prevent food borne illness you should never use the same plate or utensils for raw and cooked meat. Either clean the plate before putting the cooked meat back on it or get a different plate altogether.

Meat and poultry should be cooked to a safe temperature in order to remove any harmful bacteria that may be lurking. Never partially grill meat or poultry and finish cooking later! If you are grilling a steak you should shoot for a minimum cooking temperature of 145 °F, hamburgers 160 °F or 165 °F for poultry.

After cooking your meat on the grill you are going to want to eat it when it is hot. If you aren’t going to be able to eat the meat right away, keep it warm by taking it off the direct heat but keeping it on the grill or place it in an oven set at 200 °F.

And there you have it-grilling safety 101! Grill safely, protect your food and enjoy those tasty treats.