Get ready to grill with these food safety tips

Summer sun and warmer weather have arrived just in time to break out the grill for Memorial Day weekend.

For many, it is a long weekend as Monday marks Memorial Day, a time to remember those who died serving in the U.S. military.

Memorial Day always is the last Monday in May. Many have the day off from work and mark it with family gatherings, barbecues and parades. It became an official holiday in 1971, but had been celebrated since the Civil War as Decoration Day.

So, to keep your barbecue from causing some less than pleasant illnesses check out these tips below from FoodSafety.gov and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Storage

  • When shopping for raw meat, keep it separate from ready-to-eat items in your shopping cart (and later, in bags).
  • Refrigerate meat and poultry as soon as you get home (the fridge should be at 40°F). If freezing meat, remember when it comes time to defrost, do so in the refrigerator, not on the counter (i.e., at room temperature).

Preparation

  • Keep raw items separate from ready-to-eat foods. This includes using different plates and utensils for raw vs. cooked items such as meat (or washing the utensils, etc. thoroughly before reusing).
  • Ah, marinades. They’re the best, but remember to always marinade in the fridge, not on the counter or outside (again, room temperature is bad news for raw meat as it allows bacteria to multiply faster). Once raw meat or poultry has been added to the marinade, do not use it on ready-to-eat foods (reserve some of the marinade before added meat, if you would like to use it elsewhere).
  • Taking the party on the road? Ensure you’ve got enough ice in the cooler to keep food at 40°F or lower.

Grilling

Grilling is an art form and so is ensuring meat reaches a safe internal temperature (color isn’t a good indicator but thankfully, meat thermometers are). Remember, once you start grilling, finish. Don’t partially cook food on the grill and finish later.

  • Poultry: 165°F
  • Pork: 145°F
  • Beef, lamb or veal (steaks, chops): 160°F
  • Fish: 145°F
  • Ground meat: 160°F
  • Ground poultry: 165°F

Need to keep cooked items warm (at 140°F) until it’s time to eat? Set them next to the grill rack or put them in an oven set at 200°F.

Serving

  • Use clean platters, plates and utensils. This prevents cross-contamination with bacteria that could have been on raw items.
  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
  • If it’s hotter than 90°F out, food shouldn’t be left out for more than an hour. If it is, it’s best to chuck it. For temperatures cooler than 90°F, food shouldn’t be left out for more than two hours.

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