May is National Barbecue Month (who knew?) and with the warmer weather comes an extended opportunity to fire up the grill.
According to the Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association (HPBA), 80 percent of U.S. households own a smoker or grill, and the most popular food that we grill is hamburgers. Unfortunately, improper cooking and handling of foods on the grill can increase the risk for foodborne illness.
If you are the grillmaster or have been lucky enough to be invited as a guest, read these tips to help keep your meal safe:
Donít Rely on 20:20 Vision: Letís test your grilling eye. Which of the burgers are done and ready to be served:
If you said ďaĒ, youíre correct. According to the USDA, more than 25 percent of hamburgers turn brown prematurely, that is, before they reach the safe, internal temperature of 160 degrees F in the center (burger ďbĒ). Foodborne illness caused by E. coli O157:H7 has been known to occur by eating undercooked ground beef. Also, depending on the pH, the amount of reddish pigment, and fat content in the ground beef, the burger can look pink on the inside yet have reached 160 degrees F making it safe to eat (burger ďaĒ). The only way to tell if the meat is done and safe to eat is to use a thermometer.
Do: Use a thermometer and the following chart from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to determine when your grilled feast is done:
Donít Touch That!: While hand washing is a key strategy in reducing the risk of foodborne illness, it is also important to wash utensils that touch raw meat, fish, and poultry before re-using them for cooked foods.
Donít Let Leftovers Loaf Around: While the party may linger, donít let the leftovers do the same. The rule of thumb is that food should not be left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours or 1 hour if it is 90 degrees F or above outside.
DO: Wrap up leftovers immediately and give them the big chill in the refrigerator or freezer for another meal.
DO email these tips to your favorite grillmaster.
Be well, Joan