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By Whitney Wyatt/The Red River Sun—
CHILDRESS – While meats should be cooked to the recommended temperatures when grilling, the Childress County Extension Office also has advice on how to properly clean the prep workspace.
Using a properly calibrated meat thermometer is the best way to ensure meats are adequately cooked, according to a news release from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Processed meats like hot dogs should be cooked to 165 degrees and hamburgers to at least 160 degrees. Beef, pork, lamb, veal steaks, chops and roasts should be cooked to at least 145 degrees.
“Consuming under-cooked meats creates a risk for foodborne illness,” said Dockter. “Raw meats, other raw foods and even water can be contaminated with bacteria or parasites. But cooking these foods to the appropriate temperature will kill off pathogens, making the food safe to eat.”
For flavor quality, Dockter said to allow these foods to rest for a few minutes after removing them from the grill, before carving or serving. After cooking, be sure to keep the food hot until it is served — at least 140 degrees. Otherwise, eat or refrigerate right away. Keep food covered and never let it sit out for more than two hours. If the weather is 90 degrees or hotter, eat or store food within one hour.
Grillers will want to make sure the grilling surface is sufficiently hot before they place any meat or vegetables on it. According to the news release, an easy way to determine that, is for grillers to hold the palm of their hand about six inches over the grate. If you feel it is warm enough for you to want to remove it after a few seconds, then the grill is ready to use.
Now that grillers know the proper temperature for cooking meats, Dockter said there are also a number of safety steps that can be taken to properly clean the food prep workspace. The most common type of food safety-related issue when grilling is the possibility of foodborne illness from inadequately stored or undercooked foods.
It’s important to ensure meats are properly stored and prepared, the release stated. Poultry, fish, seafood or ground beef should be cooked or frozen within a day or two of purchase. Steaks or pork chops should be cooked or frozen within four to five days.
The safest way to thaw meat or poultry is by placing it in the refrigerator a day or two before you plan to cook it, she said. Some meats defrosted in the microwave may not thaw out evenly and other parts of the food may be partially cooked, so it’s better to let them thaw in the refrigerator. Don’t thaw meats at room temperature as this may increase the chance of foodborne illness.
Grillers need to wash their hands before and after touching raw meat, poultry or seafood, the release stated. Make sure food preparation surfaces, cutting boards, grilling utensils and serving platters are washed. If grillers placed raw meat or fish on a platter before grilling, don’t use that same plate to serve the food unless it can be cleaned with hot, soapy water first.
“By following these simple tips, grilling can be a safe, tasty and healthy summer activity,” Dockter said.