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Safe Grilling Tips

Hospital news | Friday, July 6, 2012

“Grilling season is upon us,” says Romi Pattison, Registered Dietitian at Prairie du Chien Memorial Hospital. “Food safety when you are grilling in the great outdoors is just as important as it is in your kitchen. Follow these tips, adapted from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, to make sure your summer grilling endeavors are safe and enjoyable. “

  • Whether you are using your own grill or a public grill at a park or campground, scrub it with hot, soapy water before each use.
  • Wash your hands before, during and after food preparation. Bacteria can easily transfer from the body to foods and surfaces. Wash your hands thoroughly after switching tasks, especially after handling raw meat.
  • Pack moist towelettes or hand sanitizer in your cooler for when soap and water are not readily available.
  • Use separate cutting boards, plates and grilling utensils when handling raw meat and ready-to-eat foods. Color code them to easily separate items used with raw foods.
  • After using knives, grilling tongs or forks with raw meat and poultry, clean them thoroughly with hot soapy water.
  • Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator or microwave, not on the countertop or by the grill.
  • Never use the same brush to baste raw and cooked meat. Wash brushes in hot, soapy water between uses.
  • Boil any leftover marinade before using it to season cooked meat.
  • Grilled foods can be harmful if not fully cooked. The only reliable way to ensure meat is safe and ready to eat is by using a meat thermometer. Checking the color of meat or juices does not work. Meat thermometers can be purchased for less than $10.
  • Use the following internal temperature guide:
    • Steak: 145° F (medium rare); 170° (well done)
    • Hamburgers: 160°
    • Chicken: 165°
    • Fish: 145°
  • Don’t leave food, even if it’s fully cooked, out of refrigeration for extended periods of time.
  • Put all dishes in the refrigerator within two hours. In hot weather (90° F or warmer), this time is reduced to one hour.
  • Lengthen the staying power of perishable foods by keeping them on ice. Keep a refrigerator thermometer on hand to make sure foods stay chilled properly in the cooler or refrigerator.
  • Leftover grilled foods have a refrigerator life of three to four days. If you don’t finish a leftover within this time frame, toss it.
  • Reheat leftovers to an internal temperature of 165° F before serving a second time around. Check the temperature with a meat thermometer.

Enhance your grilling experience with fruits and vegetables.

Grilling doesn’t have to be all about meat! A balanced meal includes protein, fruits, vegetables and whole grains- this applies to cook outs too. Here are some ideas to add nutrient-packed fruits and vegetables to your grilling repertoire

Many vegetables can be grilled as is: corn on the cob, asparagus, potatoes, zucchini, onions, eggplant, peppers, etc.

Grilled stuffed peppers: Cut red, green, or yellow bell peppers in half, remove seeds and grill for a few minutes. Stuff with a prepared mixture of browned ground beef, onions, garlic, cooked rice, and mozzarella cheese. Drizzle with tomato sauce and grill for about 5 more minutes until cooked through.

Kabobs: Pick your favorite veggies and meat and alternate them on kabob skewers for a quick-cooking and flavorful meal. Ingredients can include steak, chicken, shrimp, mushrooms, peppers, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, zucchini, broccoli, carrots etc., the possibilities are endless!

Portabella Mushroom Burgers: You can marinate a portabella mushroom the same way as meat and create a flavorful alternative to go along side a steak, as a burger topper, or by itself as a delicious meatless sandwich. Marinate portabellas gill-side up to absorb more flavor. Make sure the top of the mushroom gets some marinade so it doesn’t stick to the grill. Balsamic vinaigrette marinades complement mushrooms nicely.

Grilled Pineapple: You can even grill your dessert! In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons of honey and 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice. Brush the glaze onto 3 inch by 1 inch wedges of pineapple. Grill approximately 4 minutes on each side until the pineapple becomes fragrant and starts to dry out on the surface. Don't overcook the pineapple as it will turn mushy. Drizzle with leftover glaze and enjoy.

Make sure to follow safe food handling practices and do not use the same utensils for raw meats and cooked meats and vegetables. The only reliable way to ensure meat is safe and ready to eat is by using a meat thermometer. Checking the color of meat or juices does not work. Meat thermometers can be purchased for less than $10. Use the following internal temperature guide:

  • Steak: 145° F (medium rare); 170° (well done)
  • Hamburgers: 160°
  • Chicken: 165°
  • Fish: 145°