Summer is the peak season for lots of things, one of which is barbecuing. Unfortunately foodborne illness is one of those things that peaks during summer months. Here are a few creative tips to keep the fun in your cookout while keeping your guests safe as you barbeque your way through summer.
Think outside the burger box. Try mixing up some of your main-dish mainstays. Fresh pork tenderloin makes a great go-to for grilling. It is an all-natural, lean and flavorful source of protein with some great versatility. You can grill the entire tenderloin, slice it for grilled Cuban sliders, or you can dice it and kebab it for a speedier cooking time. And since lean pork cuts like this fresh pork tenderloin are recognized by the American Heart Association as heart healthy food, you can feed your guests knowing that in a 3 oz serving size you’re delivering 22 grams of protein, minerals like potassium and zinc as well as b-vitamins all for only 120 calories. So get creative with your main.
Pick sides. This has two meanings. First of all – don’t hesistate to toss some fresh produce on the grill to round out your menu in a fun, delicious and festive way. The other meaning is to keep raw and cooked foods on separate sides of your grill. Cross-contamination becomes a real risk, especially when we leave the comforts of the kitchen. Keep wipes and water handy and be sure to keep separate surfaces for raw and cooked foods to avoid risk of foodborne illness.
Take a temperature. Nothing is quite as disturbing as biting into a grilled chicken kebab and seeing pink. . . instead, take a minute to check the internal temperatures of your meat and poultry. While ground beef should be cooked to 160 and poultry to 165. Whole cuts of beef and pork are safe at 150. Remember that most thermometers have the sensor in the tip, so make sure the tip is centered in the food.
Set a timer. Hot foods should stay hot and cold foods should stay cold, but that isn’t always easy outside. A cooler with ice works great in a pinch in place of a fridge. Insulated bags or coolers can help keep warm foods warm, but for extended periods of time, try wrapping bricks or larger rocks in foil and heating them on the grill after you’re done cooking the food. Place them on towels in a cooler to provide decent hot storage for warm foods. But the simplest way is to set a timer on your phone or watch. You don’t want foods at room temperature for more than 2 hours, so once that 2-hour alarm goes off, make sure all food is safely stowed or disposed of.
Truly, when it comes to food safety, it is much better to err on the side of caution than to risk the vengeance of foodborne illness later on.