4 Food Safety Tips for the Grilling Enthusiast

Grilling is many Americans favorite summer activity. And whether you’re a new or lifelong grilling enthusiast, there may be food safety guidelines you don’t know you should be following.

To prevent the buildup of bacteria and foodborne illness, be sure to follow these four food safety tips for better and safer grilling.

Tip 1: Don’t thaw at room temperature.

Thawing meat before grilling is important. It allows the food to cook more evenly while on the grill. And while you may have seen your dad pull chicken out of the freezer and then just sit it on the counter for a few hours to defrost—don’t follow his example. Foods should never be defrosted at room temperature.

The correct way to thaw the meats and poultry you’ll be grilling is to stick them in the refrigerator for slower and safe thawing, or you can thaw meat that’s in a tightly sealed package in cold water. When you forgot to pull your chicken out of the freezer and dinner is in an hour, you can thaw it in the microwave. Just be sure to place the meat or poultry immediately on the grill after it’s been thawed.

Tip 2: Marinate food in the refrigerator.

Marinade can turn an ordinary steak into something mouth-wateringly delicious. Spices, herbs and oils in marinades add flavor to the meat and also help make it tenderer.

But you need to know how to marinate right, which means not on the counter at room temperature. Use a plastic bag that’s safe for food or a glass dish with a lid, making sure both are sealed tightly, and marinate in the refrigerator. According to the USDA, cubed meat and poultry can marinate up to two days in the fridge, while beef, pork, steaks, veal and lamb roasts can marinate for five days.

Also, if you’re going to reuse marinade that raw meat has touched, boil it before using again to kill off any harmful bacteria.

Tip 3: Keep raw foods separate from the cooked foods.

To prevent foodborne illness, keep raw foods separate from cooked foods. This includes not using the same plate to take meats to and from the grill, as well as cooking and serving utensils used to rotate or flip steaks, hamburgers, etc., on the grill. Harmful bacteria that are in raw meats and their juices will transfer from the plate and utensils and contaminate food that’s been safely cooked. So either dirty two dishes and utensils, or after taking your raw meat and putting it on the grill, wash your grill gear before reusing it to take your cooked meat off the grill.

Tip 4: Cook your meats thoroughly.

Some grillers will tell you that you don’t need a thermometer; that by just looking at the color you can tell when the meat is done. Meat and poultry tend to brown quicker on the outside when cooked on the grill, so know for sure that your meat is cooked thoroughly by using an instant-read barbecue meat thermometer to check the internal temperature.

The USDA lists the safe minimum internal meat and poultry temperatures as follows:

  • Beef, pork, lamb and veal — 145 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Ground meats — 160 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Poultry (whole, breasts and ground) — 165 degrees Fahrenheit.



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