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06.13 - June

Good food for better health
Hello, grillers: Put food safety on the menu

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By Melanie Polk, M.M.Sc., R.D., F.A.D.A.
(Click for author bios in About us)

Nothing says summer like a backyard cookout. But, to make your barbecue a success, you need more than a secret sauce recipe and a sizzling grill. Knowing a few basics of safe outdoor cooking can help you enjoy a fun feast — and lower the risk of foodborne illness.

Well done, grill master!
Here are five food-safety tips to remember when you're set to barbecue:

1. Clean the slate. Before cooking, give your grill grates and utensils a thorough scrubbing with hot, soapy water.

2. Handle with care. Keep uncooked foods — particularly raw meats and their juices — separate from cooked foods at all times. Use different cutting boards, platters and utensils. And, don't forget to wash your hands before and after touching raw foods.

3. Ban the burn. Charred meat can contain chemicals that may increase cancer risk. But, there are ways to reduce this unhealthy scorching:

Before: Marinate animal proteins — such as beef, poultry and fish. This can help prevent cancer-causing substances from forming. (See "Marinade: Double up!") And, trim any fat. This will help reduce flare-ups from dripping grease.

During: Grill over indirect heat — out of any flames. Flip foods often.

After: If foods do get charred, cut off the burned parts before serving.

4. Check the temp. Keep raw meats in the fridge until they can go straight on the grill. Then, use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. It's the only way to know if you've cooked meats long enough to kill bacteria that make people sick.

To be safe, cook foods to at least the following temperatures:
Steaks, chops, fish Hamburgers Poultry, ground poultry, hot dogs
145° F
Then allow meats to rest — to sit without carving or consuming — for 3 minutes.
160° F 165° F
Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; Department of Agriculture

After meats are cooked, keep them warm by moving them to the edges of the grill — away from the coals and flames. Or, put them in an oven set at 200° F until it's time to eat.

5. Chill after you grill. Refrigerate any leftovers right away. If perishable items have been sitting out too long, toss them. That's one hour on days when the temperature hits 90° F or above — or two hours max on cooler days.

More cool tips
If you're serving cold salads and condiments, place the containers in larger bowls of ice. This will help them stay chilled.

And, for a wealth of information on keeping food safe, visit FoodSafety.gov.
Rate this article
Greek turkey sliders
Turkey can turn hard when grilled, but this recipe adds potato flakes, feta, spinach and an egg white to keep it moist and rich. Simply hit "Print," and you'll have a grocery list and directions.

Fast fact

A fresh twist
Grilling veggies and fruits can enhance their flavor. A few ideas for the grill: peppers, corn on the cob, squash, onions, eggplant, plums, pineapple and bananas.

Marinade: Double up!

Here's a tip to safely use marinade to season cooked meat: Make a double batch. Use half for raw meat — discard after marinating — and use the other half for cooked meat. And, don't use the same brush to baste both raw and cooked meats. Also: Marinate foods in the fridge — not on a counter.