Grilling Safely at Home
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It’s always important to follow good hygiene practices when handling or preparing food for yourself and others, whether you are grilling, having a summer cookout or backyard BBQ. Check out these tips for preparing food for the grill and cooking food safely on the grill.
When preparing food for the grill, make sure to wash hands and surfaces after contact with raw foods. We want to avoid cross contamination at all costs to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Use separate utensils and separate cutting boards for raw and ready-to-eat or cooked foods. If you are planning to grill something that has been frozen, make sure to thaw foods safely by using the following methods:
- Refrigerator: Food should be at 41°F or colder.
- Cold Water: Submerge food in package in sink or container of cool water, changing the water every 30 minutes.
- Microwave: Use the microwave to thaw, but only if you plan to cook the food immediately after thawing.
- Cooking: You can thaw foods as part of the cooking process, however, you will need to allow at least 50% longer time to cook through. If thawing meats, this method (as well as the microwave method) can lead to different levels of doneness throughout your meats as some parts may be thicker than others.
We want to be sure to follow the guidelines above to avoid the temperature danger zone. The temperature danger zone is where harmful bacteria grows the fastest and is between 41°F and 135°F. Perishable foods, such as those containing animal products, cooked vegetables and grains, should be tossed or composted after four hours at room temperature OR one hour if the outdoor temperature is over 90°F.
Now that we have our foods prepped, let’s get to grilling! When cooking food safely on the grill, remember checking color, texture, or taste are not indications that food is fully cooked. If contaminated food is consumed raw or undercooked, there is a higher risk of foodborne illness. The BEST method to make sure your food is done is by using a food thermometer. By using a food thermometer, we can measure the internal temperature of the food by inserting the thermometer into the side of steaks or burgers to the very center. Follow the below cooking temperatures to ensure your food is safe. These cooking temperature recommendations are based on reducing bacteria to a level considered “safe” based on USDA guidelines. Grilling temperatures include:
- 145°F: Whole cut of beef, pork, veal, lamb and fish
(examples include pork chops, steaks, salmon)
- 155°F: Ground or tenderized meats, except poultry
(examples include burgers, tenderized beef, pork, veal etc.)
- 165°F: poultry (ground or whole)
(examples include chicken breasts, turkey burgers)
For more information on food safety and safe cooking techniques, visit foodsafety.ces.ncsu.edu. Happy grilling!