Time to fire up grill
Precautions needed for food safety
It's official: summer is here! School is out, the swimming pools have opened and most folks have fired up their barbeque grills.
Memorial Day weekend has long been considered the "official" opening of summer and prompts many a cookout around the country. According to the Barbeque Industry Association, three out of four U.S. families own a barbeque grill. Regardless of the season or the weather, Americans are cooking over the coals approximately 2.9 billion times a year.
But the real question is this: Are there any unwanted guests, such as food-borne bacteria, attending all those parties? While it's true that bacteria are naturally found in meat products, the good news is that most of those bacteria are heat-sensitive and will be killed by thorough cooking.
With some thoughtful preparation, you can make sure that your cookout will be safe from start to finish. Consider these food safety tips for your next grilling get-together:
¢ Completely thaw meat and poultry in the refrigerator or in the microwave just prior to cooking. Plan for 24 hours of refrigerator thaw time for every 5 pounds of meat. Never defrost on the counter, as bacteria will begin to grow on the outer surfaces of meat as the temperature rises.
¢ Marinate meat and poultry in the refrigerator. If you plan to use some of your marinade for serving after cooking, be sure to reserve some before you add the meat. Never serve marinades that have held raw meats as a condiment. To use marinades as a basting sauce, bring to a boil before basting.
¢ Don't use the same platter or tray to hold cooked and raw foods without thoroughly washing it between uses.
¢ Cook all meats thoroughly, using a food thermometer to accurately measure the end temperature. Ground meat should be 160 degrees Fahrenheit; poultry, 180 degrees; poultry breasts, 170 degrees; pork, 160 degrees; steaks, 145 degrees; and fish, 145 degrees. Try cooking fish in foil packets with seasonings to retain natural flavors and protect it from smoke and fire.
¢ Once taken from the grill, keep the meat hot until serving in a warming tray or slow cooker.
¢ Place leftovers in the refrigerator. Discard anything left out more than two hours.
¢ For menu variety, try grilling vegetables and fruits: eggplant, summer squashes, bell peppers, sweet onions, Roma or cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, mangoes, pineapple or peaches. Cut vegetables into half-inch slices or large chunks. Brush with warmed, seasoned oil. Turn only once, and grill until tender. Fruit should be halved with pits removed. Grill with the pulp side down.
Outdoor cooking over a grill is often the centerpiece for summertime fun with family and friends. By following these tips, you can enjoy good food and stay healthy, too.
- Denise Sullivan is county extension agent for family and consumer sciences at K-State Research and Extension in Leavenworth County.