Grilling and Barbecue Safety

— Written By Alyssa Anderson
en Español

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With the weather warming up, many people are heading outdoors, enjoying the sunshine, and getting their grills ready for the season. Now is the time to create your plan for safe summer barbecues. Some risks that arise with the use of grills include fire, injury, and foodborne illness. Here are some tips to help you stay prepared:

  • Be cautious when cleaning the grill with a metal-wire scrub brush. Cleaning is important to keep the grill clean of debris and grease; however, physical contamination can occur if a wire bristle from the scrub brush falls off and is transferred to the food. There have been previous reports of people having to visit the emergency room because of this. To prevent this, either check your grill manual for additional cleaning recommendations or thoroughly inspect the grill grate and brush before cooking. If you notice that your brush appears to be losing bristles, it is time to replace it with a new one.
  • Prevent cross-contamination of raw foods with ready-to-eat foods. Do not place cooked meat on the same plate that it was brought out on, unless it has been cleaned and sanitized first. Be cautious of utensils as well. Do not place uncooked meat on the grill and then proceed to remove meat that has finished cooking using the same utensil. Another common way that cross contamination occurs is when marinade used on raw foods is then poured back on top of the cooked. If you are looking to add some extra flavor to the final product, after making the marinade, set some to the side that won’t come into contact with the raw meat or fish.
  • Bring a tip sensitive digital food thermometer. A recommendation is to keep an extra one in a picnic basket or alongside where you store your grilling supplies so that you do not forget to bring it with you. Reaching the proper temperature not only helps in keeping food safe, it also helps improve with the quality of the meal by preventing overcooking. Food cooked on the grill may char quickly, resulting in a longer cooking time needed to reach safe temperatures. Cook beef, pork, lamb, and roasts to 145 degrees Fahrenheit; ground meats to 160 degrees Fahrenheit; and poultry to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Handle leftovers properly. If food has been sitting out at room temperature for greater than two hours, throw-it away. The temperatures outside are quickly starting to approach 90 degrees Fahrenheit; on these days, throw away any food that has been sitting outside for greater than 1 hour without refrigeration. If you want to prevent the potential of wasting leftovers, refrigerate uneaten food promptly.

Grilling is a great way to enjoy the weather while creating a delicious meal! Whether it is grilled local vegetables, fresh fish, or homemade burgers, it is important to always practice safe food handling. The North Carolina Cooperative Extension Lee County Center’s goal is to provide the residents of the community with research-based knowledge. For more information on food safety, wellness, and nutrition please contact the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Alyssa Anderson, MS, RDN, LDN, at 919-775-5624.