Summer is the time to fire up the grill, and no one can turn down a good barbecue. But humans aren’t the only organism that loves a nice, hot, sunny day – bacteria thrive in these environments. It makes this season a prime time for foodborne illnesses!
To keep your backyard barbecue a healthy environment for family and friends, follow these food safety tips while grilling!
Separate Your Raw Food – And The Tools That Handle It
The first rule of barbecue safety is keeping all your raw ingredients separate. Keep uncooked meat, poultry, and seafood off of common surfaces and tools until they’re ready to slap on the grill. If you need them close by, keep what’s going on the grill in a separate cooler or securely wrapped and separated at the bottom of a drinks cooler so that no raw ingredients touch other food.
Marinade Meat & Veggies In The Refrigerator
Barbecued meats and vegetables wouldn’t be the same without a good marinade, but make sure you treat every ingredient with safety in mind. Don’t let your food marinate on the counter – always keep it in the fridge!
Once the marinade has been on raw meat, poultry, or seafood, don’t try and reuse it (unless you want to boil it first). If you’re planning on using some of the marinade for the finished food, keep a portion of it in a cooler or fridge.
Keep All Surfaces Clean
When grilling in the great outdoors, keeping surfaces clean – an already necessary task in the kitchen – becomes more difficult. In the hot, humid summer weather, bacteria multiply much faster, infecting cooked food much more quickly than in your kitchen. After you’ve cooked the food, don’t use an unwashed plate or utensils that previously held the raw ingredients.
If there’s no constant source of clean water, have some soapy water and paper towels, disposable wipes, or hand sanitizer handy. After handling any food or using the bathroom, wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds at a minimum.
The rules about surfaces apply to utensils, too. Have separate tongs and spatulas ready for serving.
Don’t Trust Your Eyes!
Many home cooks think that if their hamburger is brown in the middle, it’s done. However, the colour and texture of the food don’t tell the whole story! Even the most experienced grill master should have a meat thermometer handy to know when you’ve cooked the burgers, chicken, and steaks to a safe temperature. For example, a hamburger should measure 160°F on the thermometer, while chicken should be no lower than 165°F!
Once the food is at its ideal temperature, keep it that way. You should always ensure that hot food is at 140°F (60°C) or above and cold food at 40°F (5°C) or below until served to prevent the growth of bacteria.
If you prepare for the day, cook everything thoroughly, and keep cleaning supplies handy, your summer BBQ will be clean and delicious. Stay safe out there!