With Memorial Day near, many Americans are looking to fire up the grill. Just make sure you do it safely.
Whether you grill by charcoal, gas, or pellet, it’s always important to remember how to safely store and prep those burgers, hot dogs, steaks and other foods for your weekend holiday feast.
The last thing you want at your Memorial Day cookout is to spread a foodborne illness or bacteria because meats were undercooked or not properly refrigerated.
“Following safe food handling practices during this and all other seasons can reduce the risk of you and your loved ones getting sick,” said Sandra Eskin, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, in a statement.
Before you drop that first chicken breast or hot dog on your grill, be sure to follow these steps for safe and delicious grilling.
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How to wash your hands properly
A consumer study from the USDA found more than half of participants don’t try to wash their hands at all when prepping food.
But you have to wash your hands the right way to keep germs or bacteria off your food. This is what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend:
- Get your hands wet with clean, running water.
- Apply soap, then scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Sing “Happy Birthday” twice, or any one of these other songs to know you’ve scrubbed enough.
- Rinse your hands well.
- Dry them off with a clean towel.
How to prepare and cook meat safely
When you buy cold foods like raw meat or poultry, you want to make sure it’s refrigerated within two hours of buying it at the grocery store, or one hour if it’s above 90 degrees Fahrenheit outside, says the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service.
Meats need to be cooked to a certain internal temperature to make sure you get rid of any bacteria. The FSIS advises using a food thermometer to double check your meats hit the right temperature.
All poultry should hit a minimum temperature of 165° Fahrenheit, while burgers made of ground beef, pork, veal or lamb should reach 160° F, says the agency.
For whole cuts of beef, pork, lamb or veal, the CDC says internal temperature should reach 145° F, then let the meat rest for three minutes before serving or eating.
Also, when you’re removing cooked meat from the grill, don’t use the same tools or plates that have touched raw meat.
What if you bring food somewhere else?
If you’re bringing food over to cook at another location, like a family member or friend’s house or a local park, the FSIS advises using an insulated cooler with enough ice or ice packs so the temperature inside doesn’t get above 40° F.
How long can food sit out?
The FSIS says you shouldn’t let food sit out for longer than two hours, or one hour if it’s hotter than 90° F outside. Keep coolers nearby to chill food if needed. If the food sits out beyond two hours, just throw it out.
What about leftovers?
Make sure leftover food is covered in airtight wrapping or sealed containers. The USDA says leftovers can stay in the refrigerator three to four days or three to four months in a freezer.
Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.
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