It is Memorial Day and time to bring out the outdoor grill, clean it up, and start preparing memorable meals this weekend.
I love how food tastes when it’s prepared on a grill. But hang on, experts warn that grilling can be dangerous to our health if we do not take some basic precautions.
It is good fun to create a meal outdoors with family and friends nearby.
While outdoor cooking is an American tradition, common mistakes, such as marinating with the wrong oil, and improper preparation and storing of food, can lead to food disaster.
The Key to a happy, and healthy Holiday meal, involves careful planning and Real Food, below are some tips, as follows:
- Thaw meat in the refrigerator. Defrosting food on the counter encourages the growth of disease causing pathogens such as listeria and salmonella.
- Thaw proteins completely before grilling. Use a meat thermometer in the thicket part to ensure doneness.”Healthy internal temperatures are: poultry, 180 degrees; burgers, 160 degrees; pork 160 degrees; and steaks, 145 for medium rare and 160 degrees for medium.
- If you are marinating, avoid using Olive Oil which can break down at high temperatures into dangerous carcinogens. Some prefer using Malaysian sustainable palm oil that can stand up to high heat.
- Wash your hands thoroughly before transferring food to the grill.
Cooking with charcoal or propane:
- To avoid inhaling smoke and help prevent accidental fire, position the grill away from your house, and out from under eaves and tree branches. Each year, home grilling is responsible for thousands of home fires and burns that require hospital care.
- Start with a clean grill. A buildup of extra grease and fat can cause a flash fire, in addition to contaminating your food with potential carcinogens.
- Only use charcoal starter fluid with a charcoal grill. Stay safe by never adding flammable fluid once a fire has started. And if your grill does catch fire, the safest way to extinguish the flame is to close the top of the grill and turn off the gas.
- Keep meat and vegetables separate on a grill. You want to keep meat drippings from falling on your vegetables because vegetables do not cook long enough to destroy any bacteria present in the drippings.
- Always transfer cooked food onto a clean latter. Do not use the same plate that you just used for the raw food.
- Keep food hot until it’s served. Move it off the fire but keep it on the warm grill or use a hot plate. Very hot food and very cold food is the safest, but since most people like to eat foods somewhere in the middle, this can be a problem. We call it the temperature danger zone where bacteria multiply exponentially.
- Throw away any burned or charred portions before eating. The char and soot may contain dangerous chemicals or carcinogens.
- Keep flies away from food. Use food covers to keep insects from sharing your meal and spreading germs.
Treat leftovers with care:
- Refrigerate leftovers as soon as possible to reduce the risk of food spoilage and poisoning.
- Discard food that’s been sitting out for 2 hours or more. Do not take a chance if food safety is questionable. Food poisoning can cause serious dehydration through vomiting and diarrhea.
- Do not eat unwashed fruits or veggies. Wash all produce, like those tasty tomatoes you are serving over the burgers or the salad greens. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that salad greens caused 8,838 cases of food borne illness between Y’s 1998 and 2008, so always be diligent in washing lettuce, escarole, spinach, cabbage, kale and arugula before serving.
Grilling is fun and delicious, and with a few precautions, you can keep food-borne pathogens, fires, and exposure to carcinogens from spoiling one of best warm weather pastimes.
The above are common sense things that everyone should know, but many do not, you do now, so share with your friends and have great grilling outings.
To all of our American readers, have a terrific Memorial Day weekend