Important Tips for Safe Grilling

By Amy Gorin, MS, RDN

A couple of years ago, my boyfriend and I got a barbecue, and we love grilling up healthy summer eats — such as grilled tofu for an entrée, grilled asparagus for a side dish, and grilled pineapple for dessert. We also often whip up some veggie-based sides to eat outside with our barbecued dishes.

Grilling presents a lower-calorie way to add flavor to food. But summer grilling also brings along potential food-safety hazards, so I’d like to share a few tips with you to help keep your food from making you sick!

Follow the two-hour rule. Whether you’re cooking up a bunch of food items for just your family or a big party, it’s important to keep hot foods hot (at 140°F or above) and cold foods cold (at 40°F or below). Store cold foods in a cooler or in an ice bath — or try this method from Sharon Palmer, [] RDN, author of Plant-Powered for Life. Freeze an empty orange-juice carton filled with water into a solid block of ice, leaving a little room at the top when filling. “These solid blocks of ice take a long time to melt, so they keep your cooler cold for hours without messy drips of melted water at the bottom,” she says. If you leave your food at room temperature, discard it before the 2-hour mark, when the risk of foodborne illnesses heightens.

Don’t rinse your meat or fish. Save some time with this tip! “Raw meat doesn’t need to be washed prior to cooking, and rinsing it can splash bacteria onto your sink, clothes, or nearby utensils,” explains Stacey Mattinson, MS, RDN, a dietitian in Austin, Texas.

Use a food thermometer. “You cannot tell if your meat is done by just looking at it,” says Toby Amidor, MS, RD, food-safety expert and author of The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook. “Research has found that burgers do not meet the correct minimum internal cooking temperature when you only use visual cues. Your best bet is to invest in a meat thermometer, which is the best way to tell if your meat is done.” A beef burger should have an internal temperature of at least 160°F, while poultry should be at 165°F, and seafood at 145°F.

What are your favorite ways to enjoy a safe barbecue? Tell me on Connect @amy_gorin!

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Amy Gorin is a freelance writer and registered dietitian nutritionist in New Jersey. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest