With the dog days of summer upon us, it’s the season to take extra precautions when handling, cooking and serving food for your backyard barbecues or outdoor picnics.
While the warmer weather may be ideal for summer grilling, it also creates an ideal environment for bacteria and pathogens to grow in food and cause foodborne illnesses.
Luckily, we have compiled a list of simple steps to help you stay a grilling superstar and not the one who ruined Uncle Joe’s barbeque by making everyone sick.
- Always wash your hands. Wash hands well, often, and with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If you’re outdoors with no access to a sink, keep a jug of water handy with soap and paper towels. Or consider carrying moist towelettes for keeping your hands bacteria free.
- Marinating mandate. Marinate food in the refrigerator, not out on the counter. Don’t reuse marinade. If you want to use marinade as a sauce after the meat comes off the grill, reserve a separate portion before you marinate.
- Cook meat thoroughly. If you have a food thermometer, now is the time to use one! (If you don’t check out this fact sheet from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on kitchen thermometers.)
- Hamburgers should be cooked to 160°F.
- Poultry should be cooked to 165°F.
- Fish should be whitish or pinkish in color.
- If you don’t have a thermometer, make sure hamburgers are brown all the way through. You can also partially cook meat in a microwave, oven, or stove immediately before putting the meat on the grill.
- Use separate plates and utensils for raw and cooked meat. When taking meat off the grill, don’t use a plate that has already been used for raw meat unless the plate is washed first in hot, soapy water.
- Remember to refrigerate food promptly. Sometimes when you’re having too much fun at a party you forget about the food, but it’s important to remember the rule of “two.” No food should be left out of the cooler or off the grill for more than two hours. The only exception is when it’s really hot. When temperatures are over 90°F, food shouldn’t be left out for more than one hour.
- Keep hot food hot. Hot foods should be kept at or above 140°F. Eat hot foods within two hours of buying or grilling.
- Keep cold food cold. Cold foods should be kept at or below 40°F. Place cold foods such as desserts or salads on ice, and remember to drain out the water as ice melts and replace ice frequently.
Happy Summer Grilling!