It’s Grilling Season! Grill Safely this Season and Beyond…

Grilling is a summer activity everyone enjoys.   It is a healthy way of cooking, and you can grill pretty much anything.  Burgers, chicken, seafood, and even fruits and vegetables are all delicious when cooked on the grill.  No matter what you’re cooking, though, follow the tips below to prevent foodborne illness and keep your family healthy.

Thaw Safely:   Never allow food to thaw on the counter at room temperature.  If you are starting with frozen meat or chicken, thaw it completely for more even cooking.  Place your frozen product in the refrigerator for a nice safe, slow thaw.  This may take a day or two, so plan accordingly.  For faster thawing, place the frozen product under cold running water, or in a sink of cold water that is changed frequently.  You also can thaw your frozen product in the microwave as long as you placed it on the grill immediately.

Marinating:  Always marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter at room temperature.  You can marinate chicken and stew meat up to two days.  Beef, steaks, tenderloins, roasts, and chops can be marinated up to five days.  Throw away the marinade after soaking.  You should not eat marinade that has been in contact with raw meat or chicken as a sauce on cooked food.

Cook Thoroughly: Always use a meat thermometer to check for doneness.  Meat and chicken cooked on a grill will appear done because of quick browning on the outside.  However, just because it looks done, doesn’t mean it’s safe to eat.  Cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and veal including steaks, chops, and roasts should reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees F with a three-minute rest time.  Ground meats (beef, pork, lamb, and veal) should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F.  All chicken and poultry should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

Keep it Clean: Start with clean hands, and make sure there are plenty of clean plates and utensils.  Never use the same platter or utensils for both raw and cooked meat and chicken.  Always use a clean platter when removing food from the grill.  Bacteria in the raw meat juices can contaminate food that you have safely cooked.

Keep it Hot: After cooking, keep food hot at 140 degrees F or warmer until served.  Place food to the side of the grill, where there is no direct heat, or on the small rack above the grill, if there is one.  You can also place food in an oven set at 200 degrees F or a warming tray until eaten.  Once you serve the food, it should not sit out for more than two hours.  If the day is above 90 degrees F, food should not sit out for more than one hour.

Source: Annhall Norris, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service specialist, Food Preservation and Food Safety