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Food Safety Feature Articles


hamburgers on the grillTips for safe grilling

Janet Hackert, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Harrison County, University of Missouri Extension


Barbequing outside can be a great way to prepare a healthy meal while keeping the heat out of the kitchen. Here are some tips to address the most common concerns in grilling safety.


First, marinate meat in the refrigerator to keep it cool. Treat the used marinade as you would the raw meat juices it contains — that means the marinade needs to be boiled if it will be used as a sauce.


Be sure to avoid cross-contamination when grilling. Raw meat juices may contain microorganisms that cause flu-like symptoms if eaten. Vegetables and cooked meat must be kept separate from raw and undercooked meat or meat juices on cutting boards, platters, and cooking and serving utensils. Although that may mean using more dishes, it’s important to keep people from getting sick from foodborne illness.


Meat must be cooked to the proper internal temperature when grilling, which requires a food thermometer. Before grilling, make sure the thermometer you will use is properly calibrated. Check this by putting the thermometer in water with ice and confirm that the thermometer reads 32 F. If the reading is not correct, adjust the thermometer until it measures this known temperature accurately or replace the thermometer if it can't be adjusted. This is also a good way to identify where on the thermometer the temperature is sensed. Some have sensors at the very tip of the fork or probe inserted into the food, but others may have sensors higher up, usually indicated by a dimple in the measuring rod.


When using the food thermometer, make sure the sensor is inserted and held in the thickest part of the meat. Be careful that the thermometer doesn’t touch bone or poke out the other side of the meat, as this may give an inaccurate temperature. For thinner pieces of meat, like burgers or chicken parts, this may mean inserting the thermometer into the meat from the side rather than from the top. Ground meat of any kind should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 F. All poultry (whole, parts or ground) should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 F. Whole pork and red meats (including beef, lamb and venison) should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 F, with the added step of letting the meat “rest” for 3 minutes. Remove meat from the heat and let it sit.


On a cool day, meat off the grill should be eaten or refrigerated within two hours. That is because at air temperatures between 40 and 140 F — a range referred to as the Food Safety Danger Zone — germs that cause foodborne illness thrive and can reach potentially dangerous levels within two hours. As air temperatures rise, that time period lessens. On hot days — 90 F or above — that time is reduced to one hour. To keep meat safe, don’t let it sit out before or after grilling, eat it quickly or keep it cool.


When planning the menu, keep the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans in mind. Try adding grilled vegetables and/or fruit to the meal. MyPlate, the symbol representing these guidelines, recommends filling half the plate with vegetables and fruits. A few ideas for the veggies include making kabobs, wrapping veggies in foil with seasonings, or grilling larger pieces like asparagus and corn directly on the grill. Grilled fruit can add a tangy or sweet taste to a kabob or marinade.


For more information on grilling healthy, safe meals, contact Janet Hackert at 660-425-6434 or or contact your local MU Extension office.


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Last update: Monday, July 02, 2012