SafeFood: Sweet Summer Time Grilling

It’s that time of year where everyone’s enjoying the nice outdoors with family and friends. One of my favorite hobbies during these summer months is grilling in the back yard. I know for myself that when growing up, grilling was an important activity in our household that brought us all together. It is also the perfect way to switch up things in the kitchen! There is no shortage of things you can put on the grill. Pork chops, burgers, steaks and hot dogs are popular but don’t forget you can grill more than just the classics. Fruit, such as grilled peaches, are a good example of something to try out this summer. As you can imagine though, there are food safety rules that should be followed when using the grill. The CDC has some good tips on how to keep food safe. When preparing to grill, set out foods to thaw overnight in the refrigerator instead of thawing the day of on the counter or in the sink with running water. Thawing at room temperature allows for bacterial growth because the product is in the temperature danger zone, which is between 41°F and 135°F. When it’s about time to start grilling make sure you check your hands, the grill and utensils for cleanliness. It is recommended to clean grill surfaces before cooking. If you use a wire bristle brush, like I do, make sure to inspect the grill’s surface after using it to be sure nothing is left behind. There are times where the wire bristles may dislodge or stick to the grill, which may end up in your food, presenting a physical hazard. When cooking make sure there is no cross-contamination between foods you are preparing. Throw out the marinade or sauces that have touched raw meat juices, DO NOT save these for later use on the cooked product! Remember to cook foods all the way through to avoid foodborne illnesses. Having a thermometer on hand to check the internal temperature is the best method in making sure that foods are cooked thoroughly.

  • Whole cuts of beef, pork, lamb, veal and fish need to reach 145°F
  • Hamburgers and other ground beef need to reach 160°F
  • All poultry and even pre-cooked meats such as hot dogs and brats need to reach 165°F

Place grilled food on a clean plate. By following these action steps of keeping raw foods away from cooked, and dirty utensils and plate ware separate from clean, you can feel confident that no one will get sick from the foods you have grilled. Sit back and enjoy your burger in the nice summer weather!


Dietetic Intern, Emmeline Huffaker




Catherine Hemphill Strohbehn has been a faculty member at Iowa State University in the Hospitality Management Program for 30 years. She is a State Specialist with Human Sciences Extension and Outreach at Iowa State University. As part of her work, she conducts research, develops educational materials and provides programs to help retail foodservices use their resources effectively and ensure safe food is served. Cathy is a registered dietitian with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a Certified Professional in Food Safety from the National Environmental Health Association.

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