Heat meats properly to ensure a safe cookout

cookout grillMemorial Day kicks off grilling season, so make sure you’re grilling safely. Each year, one in six Americans get sick from eating contaminated food, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When cooking food on the grill, remember to start with clean surfaces, separate raw meat and poultry from vegetables, and cook food to the proper internal temperature.

According to the CDC, safe minimum internal temperature for whole cuts of beef, pork, veal and lamb is 145 degrees, and the meat should be allowed to rest for 3 minutes before carving or serving. Fresh ham (raw) and fin fish also should be cooked to 145 degrees. Ground meats, including beef and pork, should be cooked to 160 degrees. All poultry, including ground chicken and turkey, along with leftovers and casseroles, should be cooked to 165 degrees.

The CDC recommends keeping foods chilled because bacteria grow most rapidly in temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees.

All along the food chain, farmers, meat processors and retailers take multiple steps to help ensure that meat products are safe. Consumers also can take steps to prevent foodborne illnesses.

“Proper and frequent cleaning of food prep and cooking areas with single-use disposable wipes or towels will greatly reduce the risk of contamination,” said Tony Banks, a commodity marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “Proper cooking is the last step consumers must take to ensure that any pathogens that might be present are killed.”

Banks added that “you can’t tell whether meat is safely cooked by looking at it.” Any cooked, uncured red meats—including pork—can be pink, even when the meat has reached a safe internal temperature. “The color of meat and poultry is not a good indicator of safety. A meat thermometer is very important for taking the guesswork out of cooking temperatures.”

Another tip for safe grilling: Don’t use the same platters and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry. Harmful bacteria in raw meat and its juices can contaminate safely cooked food.

More information on food safety is available from the CDC at cdc.gov/foodsafety.



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