Summer cookouts are a favorite way for many people to celebrate special occasions or even to unwind from a stressful week.
But in order to make sure the event is all fun and no sickness, it is important to follow basic guidelines for safe grilling according to Christeena Haynes, nutrition and health education specialist, University of Missouri Extension.
Buy ground meat and poultry no longer than one to two days before you are planning to grill them is the first step.
“If it is going to be longer and two days before you use it, freeze it,” said Haynes. “Larger cuts of meat, such as steaks, should be grilled or frozen within four days of purchase.”
Thaw frozen meat in the refrigerator or microwave before grilling. Meat thawed in the microwave must be cooked immediately.
“Food should never be thawed on the counter,” said Haynes. “Marinate meat and poultry in the refrigerator too. During grilling, avoid brushing the food with the marinade that touched the raw meat.”
Washing hands before and after handling raw meat and poultry is also important.
Transport meat and poultry in a cooler with ice, packed just before leaving. Open the cooler as little as possible and pack drinks in a separate cooler.
“In order to prevent cross-contamination, raw meat and poultry should be kept separate from cooked foods and foods eaten raw, like fruits and vegetables,” said Haynes.
The cooler should stay in an air-conditioned car during transportation and in a shaded place once you have arrived at your destination. Then, Haynes recommends only taking out the amount of food you can grill at one time.
Scrape and heat the grill to kill microorganisms before putting on the meat or poultry.
“Grilled foods brown on the outside quickly, so the only way to correctly determine doneness is to check the internal temperature with a thermometer,” said Haynes.
Place the thermometer in the thickest part of the meat, away from bone, fat, or gristle near the end of the cooking time.
The recommended safe minimum internal temperatures are as follows: 145°F for steaks and roasts, 145 degrees Fahrenheit for fish, 160 degrees for pork, 160 degrees for ground beef, 165 degrees for chicken pieces or ground patties, and 165 degrees for whole poultry.
Remember to wash the thermometer between testing different meats and before and after each use. Haynes also says it is a good idea to not flip steaks with a fork, because it can puncture the meat and cause bacteria to get inside.
“Remove food from the grill with clean utensils and put it on a clean serving dish to prevent cross-contamination,” said Haynes. “Discard any food, cooked or uncooked, left out of refrigeration for more than two hours, or one hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees.”
For more information on nutrition issues, go online to http://extension.missouri.edu or contact one of the nutrition and health education specialists working in the Ozarks:Christeena Haynes, (417) 345-7551; or Dr. Pam Duitsman, (417) 886-2059.