One of the best ways to stay healthy throughout the year is to practice proper food safety, and grilling season is no different.
Luckily, a summer free from foodborne illness can be accomplished in four easy steps: clean, separate, cook and chill.
According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, here’s how you’ll want to apply these four simple steps to your grilling routine.
Keep everything clean by making sure you have plenty of utensils and platters. This will keep you from contaminating your fully cooked food with juices from the uncooked items you carried to the grill.
If you’re grilling away from home, find out ahead of time if there is a source of clean, running water. If not, bring water for preparation and cleaning. Consider also packing clean cloths and disinfectant wipes for cleaning surfaces and hands.
Separate raw and cooked foods to prevent foodborne illness from spreading via cross-contamination. Do not use the same platter, cutting board or utensils for raw and cooked foods.
Harmful bacteria could be present on the surface of raw meats and poultry—or as part of their juices. While grilling is likely to kill any potential germs, if they’re placed back on a plate with raw juices, there’s the potential a food could be recontaminated right before eating.
Cook food to a safe minimum internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria. Meats and poultry cooked on a grill tend to brown quickly on the outside, so use a food thermometer to ensure a safe minimum internal temperature is reached.
Color is not an indicator of doneness, as roughly one in five hamburger patties turn brown before reaching a safe minimum internal temperature. Be sure to use a calibrated food thermometer to check the following temperatures.
-Beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops and roasts should be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
-Ground beef, pork, lamb and veal should be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
-Poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Keep cold food cold by storing it in a refrigerator or cooler until ready to cook. Keep coolers out of direct sunlight, and avoid opening the lid too often.
Keep hot food hot—meaning cooked foods are held at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer—by setting them to the side of the grill rack. This will keep food safe until ready to serve, without overcooking.
Chill leftovers promptly in shallow containers, and discard any perishable food left out for more than two hours (one hour if outside temperatures are above 90 degrees Fahrenheit).
By sticking to these four simple food safety steps you can better protect yourself and your grilling guests from foodborne illness all summer.
Do note this is not a completely comprehensive list, just a quick summary. If you want to learn more about how to keep food safe, visit food.unl.edu/food-safety.
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