Making healthy food choices is not the only health concern during barbecue season. Often the types of meat, plus handling and cooking methods, pose food safety risks. Not handling foods in sanitary conditions or not cooking and storing at the proper temperatures increases risk of food borne illness. Use the following guidelines to prepare food and grill safely.
1. Wash your hands! Be sure to wash hands before and after preparing or cooking foods. Wash hands immediately after handling raw meat, poultry, or seafood.
2. Store raw and cooked foods separately. Use different cutting boards, knives, utensils, and pans for animal products and fresh produce. Also disinfect your kitchen counter before and after preparation.
3. Thaw foods correctly. Do not thaw frozen meat and seafood on the counter. For quick defrost methods, submerge the meat under running water, make sure the overflow goes down the drain and does not contaminate other foods or food preparation areas. Food can also be thawed in the microwave only for immediate preparation. The refrigerator is a safe thawing space for meats when properly covered and stored on the bottom shelf; depending on the cut of meat it can take hours to days for the meat to thaw.
4. Cook food thoroughly and to the proper temperatures – this is key for killing harmful bacteria. Insert a thermometer into the middle of the meat/poultry/fish and read the temperature for 15 seconds.
|Poultry, ground poultry, flaked fish, ground fish||165˚F|
|Ground meat, whole meat cuts, eggs||155˚F|
|Fish, crustaceans, shellfish||145˚F|
5. Hold foods at the proper temperature. The temperature danger zone for foodborne illness is between 41 ˚F and 135 ˚F. Hot foods should be kept at 135˚F or above, or consumed within two hours. Cold foods, especially mayonnaise-based salads, should be held at 40˚F or below, or consumed within 2 hours. At outdoor events, store the cold food container in an ice bath and replenish as needed. (Note: The FDA recommends that if the outside temperature is 90˚F or above at a cookout, to consume hot and cold foods within one hour).
6. Reheat foods to the proper temperature. Reheat leftover hot foods to at least 165˚F, insert the thermometer and read the temperature for 15 seconds.
It is also important to be temperature-conscious during high-heat cooking to prevent or reduce the formation of toxic chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These chemicals are formed when meat, poultry, fish, or pork are cooked at high temperatures, including grilling over an open flame.
The following cooking methods can help reduce the formation of HCAs and PAHS.
1. Partially cook meat in a microwave oven to reduce cooking time with a high heat method.
2. Avoid cooking meat over an open flame or on a high-heat metal surface for a long period of time.
3. Reduce HCA formation by continuously flipping meat over while on a high heat source.
4. Discard charred portions of meat and avoid using sauces made with meat drippings.
Keep these cooking tips in mind this barbeque season to help yourself create a delicious, healthy, and safe plate.
Sources: The FDA, The NIH National Cancer Institute, The National Restaurant Association, and The Cleveland Clinic