A Little FYI for Your BBQ

Play it safe by following these basic grilling tips.
By Cara Lucas

For all of you out there eager to fire up the grill on a warm summer night, make sure you think before you act and act before you cook! Due to higher temperatures in the summer months, cooking outside can present many food-related health risks not present in cooler months.

The FDA stresses the importance of keeping these picnic tips in mind when you are dining outside this summer:

1. Wash your hands. Even if you’re cooking outside, wash your hands often. Use soap and water to scrub for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the bathroom or before handling food. Try using a water jug if outside, or bringing along some moist, disposable towelettes.

2. Keep raw food separate from cooked food. Don’t re-use any plate, pot, or pan that held raw poultry, meat, or seafood unless it is first scrubbed in hot, soapy water.

3. Marinate food in the refrigerator and not the counter. And, if you want to use some of the marinade as a sauce on cooked food, set aside a separate portion. Never re-use a marinade that contained raw meat.

4. Cook food thoroughly. To kill any harmful bacteria that may be present, use a food thermometer. Hamburgers should be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. If a thermometer is not available, make sure hamburgers are brown all the way through, not pink. Chicken should be cooked to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. If you partially cook food in the microwave, oven, or stove to reduce grilling time, do so immediately before the food goes on the hot grill.

5. Chill or freeze food promptly. Never leave food off the grill or out of the cooler for more than two hours. If the outside temperature is above 90 degrees, food shouldn’t be left out over an hour.

6. Keep hot food warm. Hot food should be kept at or above 140 degrees Fahrenheit, wrapped well, and placed in an insulated container. When re-heating food at the outing, be sure it reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

7. Keep cold food cool. Cold food should be held at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Place salads or desserts on ice in a shallow container to keep cool. Remember, the key is to never let your picnic food remain in the "Danger Zone," which is between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, for more than two hours, or one hour if outdoor temperatures are above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. This is when bacteria in food can multiply rapidly, and lead to food-borne illness.

When you head outside to grill, add a food thermometer to your list of items to bring along. Let the below chart act as a guide for your summer grilling!

Safe Food Temperature Chart:

Food                            Temperature

                                    (degrees Fahrenheit)

Steaks and Roasts                    145

Fish                                          145

Pork                                         160

Ground Beef                             160

Egg Dishes                               160

Chicken Breasts                       165

Whole Poultry                          165

Shrimp, Lobster, and Crabs      Cook until pearly and opaque

Clams, Oysters, and Mussels    Cook until the shells are open