Cooking outdoors on grills is a good weather tradition. Although summer is the most common time for grilling, gas grills and indoor grills have made grilling all year round much easier. By following these tips, your grilling will be safe any time of the year.
Step one: Buying the meat and getting it home
- When you are doing your grocery shopping, buy your meat and poultry at the end of your trip so that it remains cold for a longer period of time.
- Keep raw meat and poultry away from the other food in the shopping cart and place the meat and poultry packages in plastic bags to prevent the juices from the meat from dripping on to the other food.
- When you leave the grocery store, put your meat and poultry in the coldest part of the car. In the summer, if your ride home will take more than 30 minutes, bring a cooler with ice and put all perishable foods in the cooler for the trip.
- Once you get home, place the meat and poultry in the refrigerator right away. Poultry and ground meat that will not be used within 1 to 2 days should be frozen. Other meat needs to be frozen if it will not be used within 4 to 5 days.
Step two: Defrosting meat
- Meat and poultry that is thawed completely cooks more evenly on the grill.
- Defrost meat and poultry in the refrigerator, or if the meat is in a sealed package, it can be thawed by submerging in cold running water.
- If you defrost your meat or poultry in the microwave, it needs to be immediately cooked after thawing.
Step three: Marinating
- Always marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter or in the sink.
- If you want to use the marinade as a sauce, save some that has not had raw meat in it.
- Do not reuse the marinade used on raw meat or poultry.
Step four: Storing the food
- Keep meat and poultry cold until you are ready to cook it.
- If you are at a picnic and using a cooler, keep the cooler in the shade or in a shelter and out of direct sun.
- Keep the cooler lid closed as much as possible so that the cold air does not get out and warm air does not get in.
- Use a separate cooler for beverages and other things that you will want to get to a lot.
Step five: Keeping it all clean
- Make sure you have plenty of clean utensils and platters for separately handling the raw food and the food after cooking.
- Do not use the same platter and utensils for raw and cooked meats and poultry. The bacteria in the juices from the raw meat and poultry can contaminate the cooked meat.
- Always wash hands, cutting boards, dishes and utensils with hot soapy water after they come in contact with raw meat and poultry.
- Bring clean water to wash your hands and utensils if you are going to a park that does not have clean water available.
Step six: Cooking
- Precooking food in the microwave, oven or stove will decrease the amount of time it takes to grill, but the food needs to go on the grill immediately to finish cooking.
- Never grill meat or poultry partially with plans to finish cooking it later.
- Looks can be deceiving when grilling. Check the temperature of the food, do not rely on the way the outside looks.
- Follow the temperature guidelines below
- Whole or ground poultry 165°F instantaneously
- Previously cooked meats 165°F instantaneously
- Stuffed meats 165°F instantaneously
- Ground meat (excluding poultry) 155°F for 17 seconds
- Beef, veal, pork, and lamb steaks 145°F for 15 seconds
- Roasts and chops 145°F for 15 seconds
- Fish and shellfish 145°F for 15 seconds
Step seven: After the grill
- Keep cooked foods warm - at least 135°F or warmer until served. This can be done by putting the meat on the side of the grill rack, not over the coals, in a 200°F oven, a chafing dish, a crock pot or on a warming tray.
- When the temperature is over 90°F outside, food should not be out for more than one hour.
- Refrigerate leftovers immediately. If you do not know how long the meat has been sitting out, throw it in the garbage.