The summer months can means grilling out for many people. There is a bit of danger that accompanies that fun activity. When handling and cooking meats there are certain precautions one should take to ensure the food is safe to consume. The warmer temperatures in the summer raise the chances of food borne germs and bacteria developing in foods.
Precautions to take when cooking food this summer:
Separate the meat and seafood from other food when shopping and when storing meat at home.
Chill meat in a refrigerator or cooler at 40 degrees or below until ready to grill. Do not let it set out before grilling it, the meat will warm up and may become warm enough for bacteria to develop.
Check the “best by” date on the packaging if it has been a while since purchasing the meat be cautious. Red meat should not be turning brown before it is cooked. If you do not plan on cooking the meat within five days of purchase– freeze it. Red meat and pork can remain in the refrigerator for up to five days and can be frozen for four to 12 months.
Clean all surfaces, utensils, and the grill before and after meat touches it. Wash your hands before and after handling meat. You should not wash raw poultry or meat before cooking it, even though some older recipes may call for this step. Washing raw poultry or meat can spread bacteria to other foods, utensils, and surfaces, and does not prevent illness.
Be aware of cross-contamination. Do not put other foods on surfaces where when has been. Do not use sauces or marmalade that have been used on meats and may contain raw meat juices on other foods because it may contaminate cooked foods.
Use a food thermometer to ensure your foods have reached the proper cooking temperatures where all bacteria dies. When smoking, keep temperatures inside the smoker at 225°F to 300°F to keep meat a safe temperature while it cooks.
145°F – whole cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and veal (stand-time of 3 minutes at this temperature)
145°F – fish
160°F – hamburgers and other ground beef
165°F – all poultry and precooked meats, like hot dogs
After grilling keep the meat at 140°F or warmer until it is served.
Refrigerate and cover leftovers within two hours of cooking. Leftover cooked meat will last three to four days in the refrigerator and two to six months in the freezer.