Have a Happy, Food Safe Father’s Day!
By Diane Van, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service
Father’s Day is just around the corner. Many of us will celebrate with a day of outdoor activities and tasty meats from the grill. The chef of your household might have the skills to cook the perfect burger, but do they know how to cook a delicious and safe burger? It’s easy if you follow these simple steps.
Step 1: Safe Thawing
If meat and poultry is frozen, be sure to thaw it before grilling so that it will cook more evenly. Never thaw food at room temperature; you need to keep food out of the Danger Zone (between 40 °F - 140 °F) to keep bacteria from growing to dangerous levels.
The safe ways to thaw food are:
- In the refrigerator
- In cold water
- In the microwave. Plan to grill the meat immediately because some areas may begin to cook during the defrosting.
For more details, see The Big Thaw: Safe Defrosting Methods for Consumers or listen to our podcast on thawing.
Step 2: Safe Marinating
For many chefs, a great marinade is the secret ingredient that turns a tough piece of meat into one that’s moist, tender, and tasty. Here’s how to do it safely:
- Always marinate food in the refrigerator to keep it out of the Danger Zone.
- If you’re planning ahead, you can marinate chicken up to 2 days and beef up to 5 days in the refrigerator.
- Never use the leftover marinade as a sauce unless you bring it to a boil first for one minute.
Listen to our podcast on marinating for tips on containers for marinating, amounts to use, and more.
Step 3: Safe Grilling
The secret to safe grilling is to use a food thermometer. It’s the only way to be sure that the food is safely cooked. Check out our Using a Food Thermometer blog post for details.
Step 4: Safe Serving
What’s one of the most common mistakes that people make when they’re grilling? They put the safely cooked food on the same platter that held the raw meat or poultry. Don’t ever do this! When taking food off the grill, always use a clean platter. Otherwise, any harmful bacteria present in the raw meat juices could contaminate your cooked food.
Step 5: Safe Storing
If you have any leftovers, chill them promptly in shallow containers in a cooler or refrigerator. Discard any food left out for more than 2 hours. If it’s hot (over 90 °F), discard food left out for more than 1 hour.
If you have questions about grilling, feel free to submit them here. But, if you need an answer quickly, one of the following is your best bet:
Do you have any tips on using the backyard BBQ in terms of cleaning prior to BBQing? Mine always gathers a lot of black, charred material on the top (left over from the last grilling). I do my best to scrub it all off as well as burn it off. Do I need to be doing more (e.g., cleaning grill with a cleanser?) How bad is this for my family? Thanks for your help!