Practice proper food safety when grilling
LINCOLN, Neb. – Rising temperatures outdoors means grilling, and it’s time to bring out grilling supplies and all the essential foods. But whether grilling by the comfort of a home or away at a park, remember to practice proper food safety, said Julie Albrecht, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension food specialist.
One of the most important things to watch out for, she said, is cross-contamination.
“It’s easy to contaminate with raw meats that have juices,” Albrecht said. “Don’t cross-contaminate them with ready-to-eat foods that you don’t cook.”
Ready-to-eat foods could include salads, fruits and vegetables. Be careful not to cross-contaminate different types of meat. Albrecht said people should also remember not to put cooked meat on the same plate that was used to transport raw meat because that could contaminate the food.
Getting the temperature right is important. Hamburger and pork chops should be cooked internally to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, while poultry needs to be cooked to 165 degrees. Steaks need a different internal temperature depending on preference.
“The other thing is letting food sit out too long in the temperature danger zone,” Albrecht said. “Don’t leave food out for more than two hours at room temperature. Especially in 90-degree weather, don’t let food sit out for more than an hour.”
Hot foods must be kept hot and cold foods need to be kept cold to prevent the spread of microorganisms. This can be accomplished with a slow cooker and an ice chest containing ice or frozen bottles of water.
Eating food outside a home, such as a picnic or grillout at a park, can be more difficult. Albrecht said cleaning supplies, such as hot water and soap, should be brought along to clean utensils, surfaces and the grill. Turning a grill up will burn a lot of residue off it, but it could lead to ash getting into food. Bring a brush to get that residue off. Also, consider bringing a tablecloth to cover an outdoor picnic table.
Don’t plan on packing a lot of warm food for a picnic, Albrecht said. With no real way to maintain heat at a park, the only real option is to keep warm food in a slow cooker and bring it along tightly sealed.
“Don’t prepare too much,” Albrecht said. “If you’re not maintaining the heat, you’ll have to discard the food. If you do have a way to keep it hot or have a kettle to cook over a grill, that’s good. Otherwise, get it put into a cooler as soon as possible.”
As always, she said, bring soap and water for dishes and to wash hands whenever food is cooked. Moist towelettes work well to bring along for a picnic.
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