Summer is in full swing. The rising temperatures call for outdoor grilling, making it the preferred cooking method of the season. As a matter of fact, July is aptly dubbed “National Grilling Month!”
Foodborne illnesses are common in the summertime as the warm weather allows foodborne bacteria to multiply faster. During National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month, we shared helpful tips in handling fresh produce, many of which are applicable for grilling season as well. Nonetheless, FoodFacts.com shares a few more tips to ensure you’re enjoying National Grilling Month safely.
- When grocery shopping, make your rounds and pick your items up from the shelves first. Hit the refrigerated aisle and choose your cold items, such as meat and poultry, preferably right before check out.
- Always separate raw meat and poultry from produce and other dry items to avoid food contamination.
- Plan to head straight home from grocery shopping, or bring a cooler with ice, to keep cold items cold.
- Meat, poultry and other perishable goods should be refrigerated within two hours (one hour when the temperature is over 90°F).
- Freeze poultry and ground meat that won’t be used within 24 to 48 hours.
- Larger cuts of meat such as steaks should be properly wrapped and frozen within four days.
- Wash hands thoroughly before and handling any type of food.
- Keep raw meat and poultry separate from fruits and vegetables that will be served later.
- If possible, use different cutting boards and other kitchen tools like knives, tongs and utensils for meat or poultry and produce. Or wash cutting boards and other kitchen tools with soap and hot water between raw goods and produce preparations.
- Completely thaw raw meat and poultry. This will allow for better heat distribution and grill more evenly.
- For slow thawing, remove raw meat and poultry from freezer and keep them in the refrigerator overnight. You can also run cold water on sealed packaged meat and poultry.
- For quicker thawing, defrosting meat and poultry in the microwave is safe if they will be placed in the grill immediately.
- Marinate to tenderize and add flavor to meat and poultry. Make your own and use the All My Food Facts app to choose the healthiest ingredients for your marinade.
- Do NOT marinate on the counter. Place marinade in the refrigerator immediately to avoid occurrence of bacteria.
- Poultry and cubed or stew meat can be marinated for up to two days.
- Larger cuts of meat like beef, veal, pork, and lamb roasts, chops, and steaks may be marinated for up to five days.
- Do NOT reuse marinade on cooked or other foods. If marinade will be used for basting, dipping or sauce later, save a portion before putting in raw meat and poultry.
- Parboiling or partially cooking meat to reduce grilling time is safe only if the food goes onto the grill shortly after.
- Precooking ahead of time requires you to be certain to cook meat and poultry thoroughly to avoid food contamination. Refrigerate afterwards.
- When carrying meat and poultry to a friend’s house or picnic location, be sure to keep them cool to minimize bacteria growth. Transfer them directly from the refrigerator to an insulated cooler immediately before leaving home.
- Transport meat and poultry in the cooler with plenty of ice or frozen gel packs to keep them at 40°F or below.
- Keep the cooler inside the vehicle or under a shade.
Cooking and serving
- Check grill for charred particles and use a grill brush to scrape them off.
- Preheat the grill and cook at medium heat to avoid flare-ups from fat drippings.
- Cook thoroughly and check for doneness. The safe minimum internal temperatures are: Poultry (whole, breast and ground) – 165°F; Ground meats – 160°F; and Beef, pork, lamb, and veal – 145°F (allow to rest for at least 3 minutes before serving).
- Keep grilled meat and poultry at 140°F or hotter on the side of the grill rack.
- Use clean tong or spatula for removing meat and poultry off the grill, and place them on clean plates. Do NOT use the same plates that held raw meat and poultry.
- Perishable food should not be left out for more than two hours. If outside temperature is 90°F and above, grill and serve food within an hour.
- Clean grill after each use with a grill brush.
- Promptly refrigerate leftovers using clean, shallow containers with lids.
If you or a family member have contacted foodborne illnesses, call your healthcare provider immediately. For serious cases, take afflicted to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.