Memorial Day weekend signals the start of the grilling season, said Julie Albrecht, food specialist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and she has a few safety reminders for gillers. "It is important not to forget about food safety while having fun," Albrecht said.
Albrecht recommended that cooks always wash their hands with warm water for at least 20 seconds before handling food. People should also be wary of cross contamination and keep raw and cooked meat separate.
When getting ready to grill, preheat the coals for about 20 to 30 minutes before grilling, or until the coals are lightly coated with ash. Do not let raw meat, poultry, eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables or cooked food sit at room temperature for more than two hours.
When you are marinating foods, always do so in the refrigerator, not on a counter or outside. Do not use sauce that was used to marinate raw meat on cooked food.
Keep cold food at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below until served. Hot food should be kept at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or above until served. Temperature is important when cooking meat. Use a meat thermometer to make sure meats reach the minimum temperature required to kill all the microbes.
"The best way to know that your meat or poultry is done is to use a food thermometer," Albrecht said. "They are available where kitchen utensils are sold."
Albrecht recommended that grillers use proper temperatures and cooking times:
- Poultry: at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Ground pork or beef: 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Beef, veal and lamb steaks and roasts: 145 degrees Fahrenheit for medium rare and 160 degrees Fahrenheit for medium.
- Fin fish: 145 degrees Fahrenheit of until the flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork.
- Clams, oysters and mussels: until the shells are open.
- Shrimp, lobster and crabs: until the meat is pearly and opaque.