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Tips to have a safe and delicious grilling experience

We love to grill foods for holidays, family gatherings, and special occasions all year round. Summer is especially popular for outdoor meals, picnics, and barbecues. With July 4th cookouts right around the corner, it is especially important to take precautions to handle food safely and protect against foodborne illness. Here are some points to remember as food is prepared, cooked, and served up for the compliments!

Be sure meat and poultry is cooked to the safe minimum internal temperature necessary to destroy harmful bacteria. Don’t guess! Use a food thermometer to check the temperature. Beef, veal, pork, and lamb steaks, chops, and roasts should be cooked to at least 145° F and allowed to rest for at least 3 minutes. Ground meats should be cooked to 160° F. All poultry (breasts, whole bird, legs, thighs, and wings, ground poultry, and stuffing) must reach minimum of 165° F. For reasons of personal preference, it is still best to cook poultry to higher temperatures such as 180°F to remove pink appearance and rubbery texture. Ham, fresh or smoked, (uncooked) should be cooked to 145° F and allowed to rest for at least 3 minutes. Reheat fully cooked hams packaged in USDA-inspected plants to 140°F and all others to 165° F. Never partially grill meat or poultry to finish cooking at a later time.

The next step is to keep hot foods hot! After the cooking is completed, keep foods hot until served, at least 140° F or warmer. Set cooked meats over to the cooler side of the grill rack to keep from overcooking and monitor with a clean food thermometer until serving time. Or at home, place them in a 200°F oven and still monitor with a clean food thermometer until serving time. You can also use a preheated slow cooker, warming tray, or chafing dish to keep food hot and serve it safely.

Remember to use a clean platter or tray for transporting cooked foods from the grill to serving pieces or plates. Harmful bacteria from raw meat and poultry can contaminate safely cooked food. If you are grilling away from home, make sure there is a clean water source or bring potable water for preparation, cleaning, and handwashing. Pack clean cloths, paper toweling, and hand wipes, also.

Make sure that food does not sit out during service for more than 2 hours, and only 1 hour when temperatures are above 90° F. Immediately place leftovers that have not exceeded these time limits in shallow containers in the refrigerator or coolers with adequate ice. Cut large pieces of cooked meat and poultry into smaller portions to speed cooling. Reheat any fully cooked leftover meats and poultry on the grill or by other means to 165° F before serving.

Do not let foodborne illness ruin your reputation as a great outdoor cook. Pay attention to the food safety rules and be assured that the food served is both safe and delicious. Enjoy the compliments!

For more information about food safety, contact Teresa Adkins, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent at UGA Decatur County Extension 248-3033.

Content provided by Dr. Elizabeth Andress, UGA Extension Food Safety Specialist