Outdoor cooking has become tremendously popular, especially during long weekends and holiday breaks. As we prepare more of our meals outdoors, we also increase the risks for bacteria and foodborne illness. Following safe food handling and grilling practices can help prevent many of the dangers of outdoor cooking. These guidelines are presented by the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Safety Inspection Service (FSIS.USDA).
- Take food directly home from the grocery store and refrigerate it promptly.
- Completely thaw food in the refrigerator before grilling it.
- Marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter.
- When carrying food to another location, keep it cold to minimize bacteria growth.
- Keep meat and poultry refrigerated until ready to cook and store beverages and perishable food in separate coolers.
- Keep everything clean. Don’t use the same platter and utensils for both raw and cooked food.
- Reduce grilling time by precooking food partially in the microwave.
- Cook food thoroughly. Never partially grill meat or poultry and finish cooking later.
- Use a food thermometer. Safe minimum temperatures for various foods are:
- whole poultry: 165 degrees
- poultry breasts: 165 degrees
- ground poultry: 165 degrees
- hamburgers, beef: 160 degrees
- beef, veal and lamb (steaks, roasts and chops)
- medium rare: 145 degrees
- medium: 160 degrees
- When reheating fully cooked meats, grill to 165 degrees or until steaming hot.
- Keep hot food hot until it is served – at 140 degrees or warmer. Set them by the side of the grill rack to stay hot, but not directly over the coals where they will overcook.
- Use a clean platter for serving food, not the same one previously used for the raw food.
- In hot weather, above 90 degrees, food should never set out for more than 1 hour.
- Refrigerate any leftovers promptly in shallow containers.
- Discard any food after 2 hours left out or 1 hour if temperatures are above 90 degrees.
- For smoking food, keep the smoker temperature at 250 – 300 degrees for safety. Use a food thermometer to verify a safe internal temperature.
- For pit roasting, use a food thermometer to determine the food’s safety and doneness.
- To prevent charring, remove visible fat and precook meat in the microwave. Cut off any charred portions prior to serving the meat.
For more information about keeping foods safe this summer, visit the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service website.
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