This week we are pleased to welcome a guest blogger, Mary Wirtz, MS. Mary is a dietetic intern from Yale-New Haven Hospital and is spending a couple weeks interning with us. She is bringing a fresh perspective and great enthusiasm to our team.
With summer just around the corner and Memorial day arguably marking the start of grilling season, many individuals will soon be trying their hand at mastering the art of outdoor cooking. More often than not this renowned holiday represents a time to kick back, enjoy the seasonably warm weather, relax, and of course — grill. While Memorial day is considered one of the most popular grilling days of the year, only second to the 4th of July, grill safety is a “hot topic” that may fall under the radar and maintaining proper food safety practices outdoors may pose significant challenges. However, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, it is important to consider your outdoor grill as an extension of your kitchen to ensure proper food safety so that you will be able to enjoy festivities all Memorial weekend long! As you make plans to kick off the summer grilling season, here are a few tips to make your cookout a big hit — and food safe.
Start squeaky clean: Whether you are using a personal or public grill, ensure that you are starting with a clean surface. This usually translates to scrubbing down the grill with warm, soapy water and washing away any dirt or grime. Also ensure that you and your guests are washing hands for at least 20 seconds with warm, soapy water prior to, during and after handling food. Bacteria can easily transfer from your body to foods and surfaces, which is why it is equally important to wash your hands thoroughly after switching tasks when cooking.
Safely thaw and separate: Make sure to thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator or in the microwave and not left out on the countertop or by the grill. Raw meats and poultry should be prepared separately from veggies and other cooked foods, as the juices from raw meats contain harmful bacteria that may potentially cross-contaminate the raw and already-cooked foods. Also don’t forget to use separate cooking utensils such as plates, cutting boards, and grilling utensils when handling raw meat and ready-to-eat foods. Color coding may be beneficial as a reminder to separate those items used with raw, potentially hazardous foods.
Cook it right: Meat and poultry on the grill often brown quickly and visually appear “done,” however color and juices are not a reliable indicator of “doneness”. Your food thermometer is the most important tool to verify if your food is thoroughly cooked. Listed below are proper internal cooking temperatures for some of your grilling favorites:
- Steak, roasts, fish and chops: 145 degrees. (Allow to sit for at least 3 minutes before carving or consuming)
- Hamburgers: 160 degrees
- Chicken and fully-cooked meats such as hot dogs: 165 degrees
Keep it chill: Keeping food at a safe temperature poses challenges even for the best grill masters, but it is extremely important to remember that bacteria can start to grow on perishable food that has been sitting out too long. Watch the clock to ensure that you are following proper food safety precautions and you may consider setting out perishable food items in one-hour shifts. After each shift, place any uneaten, covered food back in the refrigerator set below 40 degrees. It is important to put all dishes in the refrigerator within two hours of serving and in hot weather (90 degrees or warmer) this time will be reduced to one hour.
Leave leftovers: Leave leftovers in a shallow, airtight container that is two inches deep or less and write the date on the top. Leftover grilled items have a lifespan of three to four days and after that time frame, toss ‘em. When in doubt, throw it out to prevent any food-borne illnesses. If consuming within three to four days, ensure that leftovers are reheated to 165 degrees before serving the second time around.
Be sure to start your grilling and summer season off with these food safety tips!