Grilling safely this summer

Summertime is great for grilling, picnicking, camping and generally enjoying both the great outdoors and great meals simultaneously. With Canada Day on July 1, and the United States’ Independence Day on July 4, a huge amount of people in North America will be firing up their grills in the near future.

It’s essential to grill the right way — not just so the food tastes good, but also so nobody gets sick! One of the biggest reasons people fall ill after grilling out is because the meat they ate was not cooked to a hot enough temperature. Nirav Shah of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) recommends using either a digital or a dial food thermometer to check.

Digital thermometers are ideal for thin foods, such as hamburger patties, while dial thermometers should be inserted a couple of inches deep into the food, as they average the temperature along their stems. (Dial thermometers can still be used on thin food — just insert them sideways.)

Different types and cuts of meat need to reach specific internal temperatures before they are safe:

  • Beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops and roasts: 145°F (and allowed to sit for three minutes after leaving the heat source)
  • Ground beef, pork, lamb and veal (includes burgers and sausages): 160°F
  • Poultry and reheated leftovers: 165°F
  • Hot dogs: until steaming

Shah also stresses the importance of cleaning thermometers between each use. It’s also necessary to place the cooked meat on a clean plate, not one that may have come into contact with the raw meat.

Summer heat makes it easy to have fun swimming and running about, but it also presents a grilling problem: bacteria can grow faster in warmer conditions. Between 40°F and 140°F degrees (known as the Danger Zone, the coolest name you will find for a not-so-cool thing), microorganisms — including dangerous pathogens — can grow rapidly.

That’s why cooking meat thoroughly in order to kill bacteria is so important. Nobody wants their picnic or camping trip ruined by the sudden infiltration of Salmonella, E. coli or any other foodborne pathogen.

The FSIS has put together an infographic with all the quick facts to remember when grilling. Check it out below.

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