Doug Worgul of the Kansas City Star (MO) reports that grills just want to have fun this time of year, but you have to be careful when you cook with them.
Grilling is not without risks, says Fadi Aramouni, a Kansas State University Research and Extension food scientist. “Common food safety mistakes, especially underestimating cooking times or overlooking the need to check cooked temperatures, increase the risk of food-borne illness,” he says in a monthly bulletin from K-State Research and Extension.
Researchers at Kansas State University have found that ground beef browns at different rates, so that browning alone — long considered the primary means of determining ground beef to be cooked — is no longer an accurate indicator of doneness.
“With meats and poultry, the only sure way to test safety and doneness is by using a meat thermometer,” Aramouni says. “Primary food-borne pathogens, including salmonella, campylobacter and E. coli, are heat-sensitive. That means that cooking foods to recommended temperatures will kill any pathogens that may be present.”
Summertime food safety tips
1. Allow plenty of time to prepare the grill and cook foods completely.
2. Avoid cross-contamination: Use separate plates, platters, bowls, cutting boards and utensils for raw foods and cooked foods. In other words, don’t carry cooked foods to the table on the same platter used for carrying the raw meats or poultry to the grill.
3. Wait until grilled foods are ready — or almost ready — to eat before removing perishable salads and condiments from the refrigerator or cooler. If foods are allowed to sit out on a picnic table unnecessarily, the risk of contamination, either from the food itself or microorganisms (such as staph) in the environment, increases.
4. Wash fresh fruits and vegetables, including leaf lettuce, which can host salmonella. Adding an unwashed lettuce leaf or tomato slice to a cooked hamburger may contaminate it.
5. Keep food covered and out of direct sunlight.
6. Clear picnic tables within 60 minutes of serving. Cover and chill leftovers or discard them rather than risk food-borne illness.
7. Clean the grill after each use.
8. Wash hands frequently, especially before and after handling foods (especially raw), before and after eating, playing catch or other yard games and touching pets. If soap and water are unavailable, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a good substitute.