Summer. Finally! Warm weather; let’s go for a hike, maybe a swim, most definitely a party. Let’s get together and have a BBQ.
Chicken barbecue, potato salad, deviled eggs and grilled steaks are proof that summer has arrived. What we do not want to do is ruin this short, wonderful season with foodborne illness. Yet summer cookouts often create the exact circumstance that helps bacteria to grow. Warm temperatures, busy agendas and keeping the great outdoors organized and clean present real challenges to keeping unwanted bacteria out of food.
Below is a primer on BBQ safety.
n Head home first after shopping. Buy cold food like meat and poultry last, right before checkout. Separate raw meat and poultry from other food in your shopping cart. To guard against cross-contamination, which can happen when raw meat or poultry juices drip onto other food, put packages of raw meat and poultry into plastic bags.
Plan to drive directly home from the grocery store. You may want to take a cooler with ice for perishables. Always refrigerate perishable food within two hours. Refrigerate within one hour when the temperature is above 90 degrees.
At home, place meat and poultry in the refrigerator immediately. Freeze poultry and ground meat that will not be used in one or two days; freeze other meat within four or five days.
n Thaw safely and completely: Thaw meat and poultry before grilling so it cooks more evenly. Use the refrigerator for slow, safe thawing or thaw sealed packages in cold water. For quicker thawing, you can microwave defrost if the food will be placed immediately on the grill.
n Marinate wisely: A marinade is a savory, acidic sauce in which a food is soaked to enrich its flavor or to tenderize it. Marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Poultry and cubed meat or stew meat can be marinated up to two days. Beef, veal, pork and lamb roasts, chops and steaks may be marinated up to five days. If some of the marinade is to be used as a sauce on the cooked food, reserve a portion of the marinade before putting raw meat and poultry in it. However, if the marinade used on raw meat or poultry is to be reused, make sure to let it come to a boil first to destroy any harmful bacteria.
n Transport safely: When carrying food to another location, keep it cold to minimize bacterial growth. Use an insulated cooler with sufficient ice or ice packs to keep the food at 40 degrees or below. Pack food right from the refrigerator into the cooler immediately before leaving home.
n Keep cold food cold: Keep meat and poultry refrigerated until ready to use. Only take out the meat and poultry that will immediately be placed on the grill. When using a cooler, keep it out of the direct sun by placing it in the shade or shelter. Avoid opening the lid too often, which lets cold air out and warm air in. Pack beverages in one cooler and perishables in a separate cooler.
n Keep everything clean: Be sure there are plenty of clean utensils and platters. To prevent foodborne illness, do not use the same platter and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry. Harmful bacteria present in raw meat and poultry and their juices can contaminate safely cooked food. If you are eating away from home, find out if there is a source of clean water. If not, bring water for preparation and cleaning. Or pack clean cloths and moist towelettes for cleaning surfaces and hands.
n Precook food: Precooking partially in the microwave, oven or on the stove reduces grilling time. Just make sure that the food goes immediately on the preheated grill to finish cooking.
n Cook thoroughly: Cook food to a safe minimum internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria. Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often browns very fast on the outside. Use a food thermometer to be sure the food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature.
Unground meats: Cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook meat to higher temperatures.
Ground meats: Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb and veal to an internal temperature of 160 degrees as measured with a food thermometer.
Poultry: Cook all poultry to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees as measured with a food thermometer. Never partially grill meat or poultry and finish cooking later.
n Reheat properly: When reheating fully cooked meats like hot dogs, grill to 165 degrees or until steaming hot.
n Keep hot food hot: After cooking meat and poultry on the grill, keep it hot until served — at 140 degrees or warmer. Keep cooked meats hot by setting them to the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals where they could overcook. At home, the cooked meat can be kept hot in an oven set at approximately 200 degrees, in a chafing dish or slow cooker, or on a warming tray.
n Serve food wisely: When taking food off the grill, use a clean platter. Do not put cooked food on the same platter that held raw meat or poultry. Any harmful bacteria present in the raw meat juices could contaminate safely cooked food. In hot weather (above 90 degrees), food should never sit out for more than an hour.
n Handle leftovers properly: Refrigerate any leftovers promptly in shallow containers. Discard any food left out more than two hours (one hour if temperatures are above 90).
Finally, have fun.
Cathy Moore is a registered dietitian-nutritionist at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson county. Contact her at 315-788-8450 or email@example.com.