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Get ready for grilling season

A red kettle grill. Illustration.

Get your grill on safely, folks!

May 26, 2019—Good weather might have you thinking of firing up the grill this weekend. Backyard barbecues bring families and friends together. But outdoor cooking and warmer weather can increase the risk of food poisoning if you're not careful.

So before you put any food on the grill, review a few safety hints from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and other experts:

Clean off the crud. Did you put away your grill while it was crusty? If so, scrub and wash your grill according to the instruction manual. Didn't save it? Try searching for one online. And when you're ready to use your grill, allow it to heat up a while to burn off any lingering bacteria.

Marinate meats in the fridge. Never leave them sitting by the grill or on a kitchen counter. Instead, marinate food in a covered, nonmetal container placed on the bottom refrigerator shelf.

Keep cold foods cold. If you're transporting meat to a cookout, keep the cooler out of direct sunlight or covered with a blanket. And use separate coolers for food and drinks. The less the food cooler is opened, the colder—and safer—your meat will stay.

Always wash your hands. Clean up with soapy water, especially after handling raw meat.

Don't contaminate your cookout. Never put cooked meats on a plate you used to take raw meats to the grill (even if part of the plate looks dry and clean). The raw juices could contaminate the cooked meat. In fact, it's best to use separate plates and utensils for all raw and cooked foods. Or you can clean dishes with hot, soapy water between uses.

Know your numbers. If you don't have a food thermometer, be sure to buy one that's designed for meat. You'll need it to cook meats to a safe internal temperature. That's 145 degrees for steaks or fish, 160 degrees for hamburgers and 165 degrees for chicken.

Don't char your masterpiece. Eating charred meats may increase the risk of cancer. Turn the meat often to avoid burning. And try to keep it away from direct flames. Scrape off any charred bits before eating.

Put away leftovers promptly. Don't eat any perishable foods—including condiments—that have been sitting out for more than two hours. Make that one hour on a 90-degree or hotter day.

Kick the health up a notch. For an even healthier cookout, why not grill something lean or meatless? Try:

  • Turkey burgers.
  • Heart-healthy fish, like salmon or albacore tuna.
  • Veggies, such as eggplant, peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, corn and carrots.
  • Fruit kabobs with pineapple, mango or other fruit slices.
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