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Environmental Health

This Fourth of July, have fun while safely grilling

This Fourth of July, have fun while safely grilling

Jun. 30, 2021

By Mary Wade Burnside

As a former restaurant grill cook and the sanitarian at Monongalia County Health Department who teaches food safety courses, Walther is well-versed on how to make sure to prepare foods and grill them properly.

“Obviously, now, being a sanitarian and knowing the food code led me to understand ways to prevent cross-contamination and to cook the food properly,” he said.

He also advises to keep surfaces clean and avoiding cross-contamination there, including when he goes back inside the house to grab more food.

“You want to be conscious of not touching surfaces that could become contaminated with bacteria from raw meat,” he added.

Keeping your hands clean is a habit that has been elevated in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and when you are grilling is no different.

“Hand-washing is very important, especially after handling raw meat,” Walther said.

As with just about every public health topic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a great resource for checking out just about any food safety information you might want to know. Also, for some basic facts, you can check out MCHD Environmental Health’s food web page.

Here are some tips on handling raw meat, chicken and seafood from the CDC:

• When shopping, pick up meat, poultry and seafood last, right before checkout. Separate them from other food in your shopping cart and grocery bags. To guard against cross-contamination, put packages of raw meat and poultry into individual plastic bags.

• Keep meat, poultry and seafood refrigerated until ready to grill. When transporting, keep 40°F or below in an insulated cooler.

• Wash your hands with soap before and after handling raw meat, poultry and seafood. Wash work surfaces, utensils and the grill before and after cooking.

• Use a moist cloth or paper towel to clean the grill surface before cooking. If you use a wire bristle brush, thoroughly inspect the grill’s surface before cooking. Wire bristles from grill cleaning brushes may dislodge and stick into food on the grill.

• Throw out marinades and sauces that have touched raw meat juices, which can spread germs to cooked foods. Use clean utensils and a clean plate to remove cooked meat from the grill.

• Use a food thermometer to ensure meat is cooked hot enough to kill harmful germs.

When smoking, keep temperatures inside the smoker at 225°F to 300°F to keep meat a safe temperature while it cooks.

According to the CDC, those correct temperatures for different types of protein are:

• 145°F — Whole cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and veal (stand-time of three minutes at this temperature)

• 145°F — Fish

• 160°F — Hamburgers and other ground beef

• 165°F — All poultry and pre-cooked meats, like hot dogs

• And then keep food at 140°F or warmer — until it’s served

Grills that have an extra rack on top are a great way to grill vegetables safely without coming into contact with meat, Walther noted. “It’s like low heat and not directly on the flame,” he said. “If you’re doing something like squash and zucchini, wrapping it in aluminum foil with olive oil, salt and pepper on a low heat rack, it keeps it away from the meat.”

And when you’re done cooking, it’s also important to put the leftovers in shallow containers and place in the refrigerator or freezer within two hours, or one hour if it’s above 90°F outside, which it has been lately.

Grilling out is a great summer pastime and also can be a healthy way to cook your food, as long as you follow safety tips. So have fun with your family and friends and fire up the grill.

Mary Wade Burnside is the public information officer at Monongalia County Health Department.

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