Grilling is a great way to bring everyone together and enjoy the great outdoors and excellent food. However, cooking over an open flame is a skill that takes time to develop. To make sure that your cookout leaves everyone happy, healthy and full of delicious food, be sure to handle the food properly, spice it well and monitor your grilling time with these helpful tips.
Understand Food Safety
Keeping the food that you’re grilling safe for all diners starts at the store. Keep meats in their own bags and away from produce to avoid cross-contamination. Beef and chicken need to be heated to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill bacteria, while fish only needs to be heated to 145 degrees Fahrenheit. If you marinate any meat, be sure to discard the marinade once the meat is on the grill. Once all the food is cooked, refrigerate everything as soon as you’re done eating. To minimize the chance of bacteria growth and food poisoning, food should not sit between 40 and 140 degrees for more than a few hours. In addition to bacterial concerns, make sure to wipe down the grill with paper towels after you brush it. Wires from the brush may fly off the grill and become embedded in soft meat products, such as burgers or hot dogs, and accidentally be swallowed by a guest.
Learn How to Season
There are many meat rubs and grilling seasoning blends on the market, but they may have fillers, preservatives or MSG. To avoid triggering a bad reaction in one of your guests, why not create your own seasoning blend? Lemon goes with fish and chicken, chili powder makes great fajitas, and garlic is always delicious. With your own seasoning blends, you can mix in a simple jar and seal to keep it airtight. Use a mortar and pestle to grind spices smaller and break down kosher salts. You can even roast your own peppers and grind them down for optimum flavor. Take care to use a high-temperature oil, like peanut oil. Your grill can get up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Olive oil burns at a much lower temperature.
Marinades and Sauces
If you want to use your marinade as a sauce, make sure to avoid adding sugar to the liquid. Sugar burns at lower temperatures than meat fat, which can make a mess of your grill and leave an unpleasant flavor on the meat. It’s also critically important that you heat any marinade to a boil before using it as a sauce to kill any bacteria that may linger in the juice from the meat. Finally, if you marinate meat in reusable plastic containers, make sure to clean them thoroughly once the meat is on the grill instead of using them to transport cooked food back into the house or to the table.
Learning to grill is a skill that can take years to perfect, but it is doable. Your grilling ability and proper food-handling skills will keep everyone well-fed and safe.
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