Sanitary practices for successful grilling

Jun. 29, 2013 @ 05:10 PM

Warm weather is the ideal time to invite family and friends over and fire up the grill. But do not let your outdoor cooking end up with a trip to the local emergency room. Warm temperatures are also ideal for bacteria and other pathogens to multiply and cause foodborne illness. Use these guidelines for handling meat and poultry when grilling out. 

From the store (home first) — When shopping for meat and poultry, put them in the shopping cart last, right before checkout.

To guard against cross contamination — which can happen when raw meat or poultry juices drip on other foods — put packages of raw meat and poultry into plastic bags.

At home, place meat and poultry in the refrigerator immediately.

Freeze poultry and ground meat that won’t be used in 1 or 2 days; freeze other meat within 4 to 5 days. Be sure your refrigerator temperature is 38 and your freezer is 0.

Defrost safely — Completely thaw meat and poultry before grilling so it cooks more evenly. Use the refrigerator for slow, safe thawing; microwave defrost if the food will be placed immediately on the grill; or thaw sealed packages in cold water.

Marinating — Some recipes state to marinate meats and poultry for several hours or days, either to tenderize or add flavor. Always marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter. If some of the marinade is to be used as a sauce on the cooked food, reserve a portion of the marinade. Don’t put raw meat and poultry in it.

Cook thoroughly — Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often browns very fast on the outside. Use a meat thermometer to be sure the food has reached a safe internal temperature. Whole poultry should reach 180; breasts, 170. Juices should run clear. Hamburgers made of any ground meat or poultry should reach 160. Beef, veal and lamb steaks, roasts and chops can be cooked to 145. All cuts of pork should reach 160. Never partially grill meat or poultry and finish cooking later. Cook food completely to destroy harmful bacteria. When reheating take-out foods or fully cooked meats like hot dogs, grill to 165, or until steaming hot. 

Serving the food — When taking food off the grill, don’t put the cooked items on the same platter which held the raw meat. Any bacteria present in the raw meat juices could contaminate the safely cooked meat or other grilled foods. In hot weather (90 and above), food should never sit out for more than one hour.


Safe grilling checks


• Take meat and poultry straight home from the store and refrigerate.

• Marinate foods in refrigerator.

• Don’t reuse marinade to baste while grilling.

• Don’t use the same platter and utensils for both raw and cooked meats.

For more information on summer grilling, contact the Vance County Cooperative Extension office at (252) 438-8188. 

Tips provided by N.C. Cooperative Extension and consumer information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.