Summer is here, and it’s time to fire up the grill and enjoy fresh foods! Grilling is a healthy, quick, and easy way to
prepare meals. You can use little or no fat when grilling meats and vegetables, without sacrificing flavor. You can even reduce dirty dishes by grilling veggies in foil! Summer squash, like zucchini, tomatoes, corn, and peppers, are all typically ready to harvest in July—and are great on the grill. Here are some fun ways to grill healthy meals:
- Grill a vegetable pizza (there are many recipes online).
- Chop two or three veggies (summer squash, onion, tomato) and a lean meat into cubes, layer on a kabob, and grill.
- For a grilled “stir-fry,” cut up chunks of onion, pepper, and lean beef. Toss together with low sodium soy sauce and spices such as garlic powder and ginger. Grill in foil pan and serve with brown rice.
Thaw safely. Completely thaw meat, poultry, and seafood before grilling so it cooks evenly. Use the refrigerator for slow, safe thawing or thaw sealed packages in cold water.
Marinate food in the refrigerator. If you use a marinade to enhance flavor, marinate the food in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Do not reuse marinade on cooked meat that was used on raw meat. If you want to add more marinade after the meat is cooked, make up a fresh batch.
Cook to the correct temperature. Grilling browns the outside of meat, poultry, and seafood quickly, so you can’t rely on color as an indication of doneness. Always use a food thermometer to ensure that the food is cooked to the safe minimum internal temperature.
Keep hot food hot. Keep cooked meats hot by setting them to the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals where they could overcook. At home, the cooked meat can be kept hot in an oven set at approximately 200°F, in a slow cooker (135°F or higher), or on a warming tray.
Use a different plate for serving cooked meat. When taking food off the grill, don’t put cooked food on the same platter that held raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Any harmful bacteria in the raw meat juices could contaminate safely cooked food.
It’s May and time to brush off the outdoor grill. A national poll reveals that 6 out of 10 Americans can’t wait to fire up the grill for the outdoor cooking season. Nearly 90 percent of people say they plan to enjoy grilled food in their own backyard this summer.
It’s important to have a safe as well as an enjoyable barbecue season. Here are some safety tips to guide you through a safe grilling season.
1. Grills are for outside only. Never barbecue in your trailer, tent, house, garage, or any enclosed area because carbon monoxide can accumulate and harm you. Set up your grill in an open area that is well-ventilated and away from buildings, overhead combustible surfaces, dry leaves, or brush. Use baking soda to control a grease fire and have a fire extinguisher handy.
2. Use different utensils, platters, and tongs for raw versus cooked meats, fish, or poultry on the grill. One of the biggest mistakes made while grilling is to use the same platter for raw meat as well as grilled meat. That mistake allows the bacteria from raw meat juices to contaminate the cooked meat. Be sure to wash utensils and platters with hot, soapy water and rinse with hot water to remove and kill bacteria.
3. Keep cold foods cold. If you are transporting cold food outside, be sure to keep it cold for as long as possible by using a cooler with ice. Place the cooler in the car rather than in the trunk to keep cold foods cold while transporting. Keep raw meats separate from foods that won’t be cooked. Meat stored on ice will contaminate the ice, so use very heavy plastic bags or a separate ice chest for the meat.
4. Use the two-hour rule. After the picnic, chill your leftover foods quickly. Leaving food out longer than one to two hours will allow it to warm up to temperatures that permit illness-causing bacteria to grow. Put your leftovers back on ice or discard them if you can’t keep them cold.
Be sure to follow these safety tips so your grill season can be fun, relaxing, and safe.