Food Safety Tips When Grilling

By: Brian Hill

Food safety precautions begin while you're still at the grocery store. If you plan on spending a lot of time at the grocery store that day, purchase the meat last, right before you are ready to check out, so it can remain as chilled as possible for the trip home. While shopping pick up a few of the handiwipes that are offered to wipe off the handles of the shopping cart. Use them to wipe off your hands after you've picked up chicken, pork, or fish.

If you live in a hot climate place the meat, frozen vegetables and diary items in a cooler for the ride home. This is especially important if you plan on completing another errand, such a picking up the kids at swim club after shopping. Even with the air conditioner the back seat can start to get warm. Keep in mind none of the air conditioned air reaches the trunk.

Meat should be refrigerated immediately when you get home, in the coldest part of the refrigerator or in the meat compartment. If you purchase frozen beef, it should be defrosted overnight in the refrigerator, not a room temperature. The same goes for chicken or turkey. If the poultry is large, over 15 pounds, you can jump start the defrosting by immersing the still wrapped turkey in the bathtub or large kitchen sink filled with cold water. Don't use hot. The hot will raise the outside of the turkey to unsafe levels while the inside still is frozen. After an hour remove the poultry from the water and let it finish defrosting in the refrigerator.

Remember to wash your hands before and after you handle raw meat or poultry. In the kitchen, don't use the same work surface, cutting board, etc. to get the raw meat or poultry ready for the grill as you do for other foods. If more than one person is in the kitchen during the prep stage, make sure you coordinate with them so you know which utensils and which surfaces have come in contact with raw meat or poultry.

Trimming excess fat from meat can help avoid flare-ups during the grilling process. This can have three benefits: leaner meat is healthier for you and your guests, a flare-up can potentially burn and ruin the dinner you've so carefully planned and prepared, and can be dangerous for the outdoor chef as well. The risk being burned while grilling can also be lessened by using long handled tongs and spatulas.

If you are grilling other items along with the meat, make sure they do not come in contact with the meat while it is in a raw state. Give the meat and the other items their own separate zones on the grill. Use separate tongs or spatulas to handle these items. When the meat is ready to be removed from the grill, put it on a fresh, or freshly washed, platter and use a fresh set of tongs or spatulas to handle it. Make sure you wash all utensils, cutting boards and your counter tops after they have come in contact with raw meat or poultry.

It is also important to refrigerate leftovers from grilling promptly. Don't leave them on the counter top, at room temperature, for very long after you have finished eating.

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