Extension Agent: Grill safely this summer
By Brenda Anderson
Outdoor grilling is a fun way to cook for family and friends. Keep your cookouts safe with the following food safety tips.
Before cooking, choose meat that is fresh and get it home and in the refrigerator within 30 minutes. Cook or freeze poultry, seafood or ground beef within two days; other meat like steak and pork chops should be cooked or frozen within five days.
The best way to thaw meat is by placing it in the refrigerator overnight. You can also thaw meat in the microwave, but never thaw food at room temperature (on the counter or in the sink) because this can allow germs to multiply.
Marinate meat in the refrigerator, not on the counter. To use marinade as a sauce on cooked meat, make an extra batch and set it aside.
When transporting raw meat, keep it 40 degrees or colder with ice or ice packs. Place foods in the cooler right before leaving and take only what you will cook and eat that day.
Store raw meat in sealed bags or containers in a separate cooler from other foods or drinks. Keep coolers out of direct sunlight and only open when absolutely necessary to help keep cold air inside.
Keep your hands, cooking area and utensils clean to reduce spreading germs. Make sure you have access to clean water for washing hands or use paper towels, towelettes or hand sanitizer. Wash hands before and after touching raw meat, poultry or seafood. Wash work surfaces and cutting boards with hot, soapy water and sanitize with a bleach and water solution (1 teaspoon bleach to 1 quart of water) before and after grilling. Wash serving platters and utensils before and after each use with hot, soapy water to prevent recontamination.
Cook foods to safe internal temperatures to kill harmful germs. Even though grilled foods may look done, the only way to really tell if food is safely cooked is to measure the internal temperature with a food thermometer. Beef, pork, veal and lamb steaks and roasts should be cooked to at least 145 degrees.
Hamburgers should be cooked to at least 160 degrees. Poultry and hot dogs should be cooked to at least 165 degrees. To check internal temperature, place a food thermometer in the centermost part of the food, away from bone, for 15 seconds.
Flip meat, poultry and fish at least one time to ensure even cooking. Be sure to wash your food thermometer before reusing. Move cooked meats to the side of the grill (not directly over coals) to keep them at 140 degrees until served.
Cooked foods should be eaten or refrigerated within two hours. When the temperature is 90 degrees or above, cooked foods should be eaten or stored within one hour. Foods left out longer than this should be thrown away.
Resource: "Cooking Foods Safely Outdoors" curriculum from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Better Living for Texans program
Brenda Anderson is a Victoria County extension assistant.