Experts offer grilling safety advice

Staff Writer

During the hot summer months, grilling outside with family and friends is a favorite pastime of many. However, local experts have some advice to make sure grilling stays safe for all to enjoy.

Mississippi State University Food Science, Nutririton and Health Promotion Assistant Extension Professor Courtney Crist said the biggest risks while grilling is cross contamination, temperature abuse and not cooking to the right temperature.

Crist said most people rely on sight or feel to determine if meat is properly cooked, but one in four hamburgers turn brown before they reach the right internal temperature.

“Undercooking your meat can put you at risk for food-born illnesses,” Crist said. “Especially with meat, they can be pretty serious food-born pathogens. Make sure to use a thermometer and cook to the appropriate internal temperature because you definitely don’t want to get sick with E. Coli or salmonella.”

According to Crist, whole muscle meats, which includes steak, veal and pork, need to be cooked to 145 degrees and rest for three minutes at that temperature. Hamburgers should be cooked to 160 degrees, poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees and leftovers should be reheated to 165 degrees.

Crist said leftover foods need to be refrigerated after two hours and if temperatures are above 90 degrees, leftovers should be refrigerated after one hour.

Purchased meat needs to be cooked or frozen within one to two days, Crist said, and meat should always be marinated in the fridge. After marinating, cooked meat should be placed in a clean container and not the same one it was marinated in.

Crist said to further avoid cross contamination, raw food needs to be kept separate from uncooked foods, and hands and cooking utensils need to stay sanitized.

Crist said people should be aware of the temperature danger zone between 40 degrees and 140 degrees. Uncooked foods should remain below 40 degrees, and cooked foods should stay above 140 degrees.

Along with food safety, fire safety is also important to keep in mind while grilling.

West Point Fire Chief Ken Wilbourne said grills should only be used outdoors, gas shouldn’t be used to light fires and lighter fluid should not be used once the grill is already lit.

“The biggest issue we see is charcoal falling out the grill when everyone is done grilling and catching the ground or deck on fire,” Wilbourne said. “Also people will throw their charcoal away while it is still hot and catch the dumpster on fire. Don’t dispose of charcoal in a dumpster, period.”

Wilboure said to also avoid adding frozen food such as frozen fries into a deep fryer because it can cause hot grease to boil over the fryer.

Loose clothing shouldn’t be worn while grilling, Wilbourne said, and be cautious of children playing or running around too close to a hot grill.

“Just be aware of the people around you and what you’re doing,” Wilbourne said.