Summertime...and the Grilling Is Easy
Mary Calvagna, MS
It is summer, and that can only mean one thing—barbecue season! Nothing tastes better than fresh grilled corn on the cob or a flame-broiled juicy burger or barbecued chicken. Grilled food is good food. And it can even be healthful. But keep in mind that safety should always come first.
Choose Healthy Options
Healthy may not be the first thing that pops into your mind when you think of grilled food. But you can make healthful choices that make grilling good for you. It just takes a little effort. And, you will not lose any of the flavor. Here are some tips:
- Choose lean meats. —Grill chicken but remove the skin. If you are not grilling chicken, choose leaner cuts of meat. Look for the word lean on the label when you shop. Avoid high fat meats like steaks, ribs, or sausages.
- Grill a garden of vegetables.—Any veggie can be grilled: onions, peppers, mushrooms, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, corn, or squash. Just brush on a light coating of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, or marinade. Sprinkle some salt and pepper to taste. Toss them on the grill, slide them on a skewer, or wrap them in foil.
- Trim the fat off meat before grilling.—Cut off excess fat from meat before cooking. Cut off any fat before eating.
- Keep meat portions small.—Cut the meat into chunks and add them to veggies on a skewer. Use meat as an accent instead of the main dish.
- Grill some fruit for dessert.—Just about any fruit can be grilled. Slice fruit into big wedges or chop it into cubes and skewer. Cooking usually takes 6 to 8 minutes. Make sure you turn the fruit from time to time.
Grilling outside is more relaxed and less formal. But you still need to care about food safety. Here are some tips to keep the bacteria out and the fun in.
- Clean your grill every time you barbecue.—Bacteria can grow in food particles left on the grill. While the grill is hot, use a heavy wire brush to remove any bits of food left on it.
- Never use the same dish for raw meat and cooked meat.—Use a clean tool to move food to a clean plate after it is cooked.
- Do not let food sit out for too long. —Keep food cold in the fridge or a cooler until you are ready to grill it.
- Use a separate cutting board and knife for meats and veggies. —It is a good idea to have two cutting boards—one for raw meat and one for veggies. Making sure you wash them well after each use.
- Wash your hands before and after you touch food.—This will help prevent cross-contamination.
- Throw away or boil marinades.—Set aside some marinade to use after the meat is cooked. If you marinated raw meat, boil the marinade for at least one minute before using it to baste the meat on the grill.
- Grill meat until it is cooked, but not charred.—Cancer-causing compounds can form when meat is charred. Scrape off any charred areas before you eat any barbecued meat.
Cook meat well. —Cook meat to the right internal temperature to make sure that bacteria is killed. Use a meat or instant-read thermometer. Here are some target ranges:
- Ground meat: 160ºF (degrees Fahrenheit) [71ºC (degrees Celsius)] or until the inside is no longer pink and juices run clear
- Fish: 145ºF (63ºC)
- Poultry thighs, breasts, or wings: 165ºF (74ºC) or until juices run clear
- Steak (medium rare to well done): 145°F(63°C)
Make sure that you let steaks sit for at least three minutes after you take them off the grill.
This will let it reabsorb the juices from cooking.
Not thinking about safety when you grill can lead to burns or a fire. Here are tips to help you grill safely:
- Make sure all gas grill hoses are firmly attached and that there are no leaks or blockages before you turn on the gas.
- Never ignite a gas grill with the lid closed.
If you have a propane cylinder:
- Check it for dents, gouges, or other problems before you have it filled.
- Do not overfill it.
- Always check the expiration date stamped on the bottom of the tank. If you have an old cylinder, have a propane supplier inspect it first.
- Never store it indoors or near a heat source or open flame.
- Always set up the barbecue in an area that is at least 10 feet from any house, shed, fence, tree, or other material that may burn, such as leaves or brush. Be aware of the wind blowing hot embers.
- Keep a fire extinguisher within reach.
- Use long handled grill tools and/or flame retardant mitts to avoid burns.
- Do not wear loose clothing and watch for dangling apron strings and shirt tails.
Eat Right—American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Food Safety—US Department of Health & Human Services
Dietitians of Canada
Barbecuing safety. City of Boston website. Available at: https://www.boston.gov/departments/fire-prevention/barbecuing-safety. Accessed July 5, 2021.
Kick off grilling season with food safety in mind. US Department of Agriculture website. Available at: https://www.fsis.usda.gov/news-events/news-press-releases/kick-grilling-season-food-safety-mind. Accessed July 5, 2021.
Safe minimum cooking temperatures. Food Safety—US Department of Health & Human Services website. Available at: https://www.foodsafety.gov/food-safety-charts/safe-minimum-cooking-temperature. Accessed July 5, 2021.
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 7/5/2021