Well folks, I hate to even mention it, but we are still living in a pandemic. That being said, you may be sick of cooking, but we’ve got some good news for you! We want you to get away from that stove and saddle up to the grill! Nothing tastes quite as good as fresh food right off the grill, right? Let’s picture your next barbeque with moist grilled chicken, a succulent piece of grilled corn on the cob and maybe even some sweet- grilled pineapple side, delish! Grilling is a fun and easy way to cook foods in a more healthful manner, than say frying or sautéing in oil. Grilling allows some of the fat to drip right off and can even add great flavor to many foods. July is National Grilling Month! But before you refill your propane tank or purchase charcoal, let’s chat about a few key grilling safety tips and then, let’s just chill and grill!
Safe grilling actually starts well before you even heat up or light the grill! Right from the store shelves is where you can best prepare yourself and your families for safe meat handling and consumption. When you are at the store, look for packages that are not torn and make sure they feel cold. Always try to put them in a plastic bag so leaking juices won’t drip on other foods in your cart or on clothing, etc. Plan your way around the store so that fresh meats are the last items to go into your shopping cart, this will ensure they stay at a safe temperature while you shop. This can be difficult when the meat is usually smack dab in the back of the store! Make sure to separate raw meat from ready-cooked items in your cart, cross contamination can be a dangerous mistake. Now that we are supplying our own bags and at some stores bagging our own items, think about how you can bag raw meat separately from other items, and plan to drive directly home from the grocery store. It may also be handy to keep a cooler in your car for hotter days, or if you plan to run errands after your grocery trip.
Once you get your meat home, it’s important to have a plan! Are you going to be grilling the food right away? Maybe you aren’t sure when you will start grilling. Refrigerating or freezing fresh meats is essential to do as soon as possible. This preserves freshness and slows the growth of bacteria. Once a food becomes room temp, meats can grow very harmful bacteria. Right off pop that meat into refrigeration and then quickly decide if you need to freeze it. If you are refrigerating meats and poultry, use it within one or two days and beef, veal, pork and lamb steaks, roasts and chops within five days. When in doubt, play it safe and throw it out, bad meat is dangerous. If you decide you want to freeze it, go for it but just know it will lose quality over time. P.S. the rule of thumb is never leave raw meat, poultry, or any perishable food out at room temperature for more than two hours.
Let’s grill already. Meats should be cooked to a safe temperature to kill dangerous bacteria. The color of meat is not a good indicator of safety, you need to use a food thermometer to make sure meats have reached a safe minimum internal temperature. If you aren’t sure what a safe cooking temperature is for your protein, look it up. Many need to be cooked until 160 degrees. Don’t try to save time by partially grilling meat or poultry and finish cooking later, that’s dangerous too. Always keep hot food hot after grilling. You never want to use the same platter and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry. There are harmful bacteria in raw meat so make sure you use a clean plate for the cooked meat. Now the food is cooked, what do we do with the leftovers? First things first, don’t let food sit out for too long. You want to get leftovers into the fridge within an hour or so (faster if it’s hot out). Grilled leftovers are usually good for about 3-4 days if stored properly. If you want to freeze your leftover grilled goodness, you can freeze it for 3-4 months. Keep some storage containers handy so you can package them up hot off the grill and straight into the fridge or freezer!
Now that we all know how to prep, grill and store safe meats, let’s talk about a few other items that are also delightful fresh off the grill. For something different try grilling sliced watermelon. Take one-inch slices and brush with olive oil, minced onion, salt and pepper, then grill them for about five minutes per side. You can eat it plain or mix with mint and feta for a salad! Ever wish you had some French fries at your barbeque? Now you can make your own sweet potato grillers (like fries). Cover sweet potato spears with olive oil and place over medium-high heat until the skins are browned and the flesh tender, about 40 minutes to 1 hour. (Speed it up by covering in water and microwaving for 10 minutes first.) It takes oven fries to the whole next level and sweet potatoes are packed with nutrients. Go green with grilled avocadoes. Cut avocadoes in half, take out pit and place right on the grill. Grilling adds a nice smoky flavor and you can add these to burgers, salads or just eat plain. Maybe these aren’t for you, but it is always nice to try something new. No matter how you grill, grill safely and enjoy summer’s favorite foods. If we are going to be chilling at home, we might as well me grilling at home too! Let’s chill and grill!
Director Of The Wellness Center