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A healthier and safer cookout with the grill

August 23, 2023
2 minutes

Is grilling your go-to for mouthwatering backyard fun? Talk about a tasty activity. Grilling puts the sizzle in summer.

But before you don your favorite silly apron—the one that makes your family roll their eyes every time—read on for a few helpful hints. We’re talking fairly simple things you can do to help make your cookout healthier and, above all, safer for everyone. And even a master griller like you just might need a refresher.

For starters, experts remind us to:

Cook to a safe temperature. To reduce the risk of foodborne illness, use a meat thermometer to ensure that meat and poultry is cooked to a safe, internal temperature. For example, that’s 145 degrees for beef, 160 degrees for ground beef and 165 degrees for poultry.

Avoid the danger zone. Bacteria grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees. Avoid the danger zone by:

  • Keeping perishable foods cold, such as in a fridge or a well-iced cooler.
  • Never thawing foods at room temperature, such as on a countertop. Thaw them in a fridge, under cold water or in a microwave.
  • Marinating foods in the fridge, never on a counter.
  • Putting leftovers away within two hours (one hour on 90-degree days) of cooking.

Don’t cross-contaminate. Remember to use separate utensils and plates for raw and cooked meat. To avoid a mix-up that could lead to food poisoning, have a clean platter and utensils ready by the grill.

Remove visible fat from meats before grilling. Not only does this reduce artery-clogging saturated fat, but it also lessens flare-ups that char the meat. Charring creates chemical compounds that may be linked to cancer. Another way to reduce charring? Move the coals to the side of the grill, and cook the meat in the center, where the temperature will be lower. If the meat chars anyway, remove that part before you eat it.

Go meatless. Eating lots of red and processed meat may raise the risk of colon cancer. For a lean and delicious alternative, try grilling fruits and veggies—such as corn, peppers, eggplant, mushrooms, tomatoes, pineapple, mango and zucchini. Or how about veggie burgers or tofu kebabs?

Sources: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; American Institute for Cancer Research; U.S. Food and Drug Administration

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