Fact Sheet FS1089
Use of the backyard grill or barbecue to prepare meals on hot summer evenings and for holiday picnics is as American as apple pie. Grilling not only helps to keep the heat out of the kitchen, but it is also a fun and tasty way to serve up favorites such as grilled fish and chicken. Grilling is also an opportunity for bacteria to form that can lead to food borne illness if food is not cooked properly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 48 million people get sick as a result of a food-borne illness each year. In addition to this, ongoing evidence suggests that cooking certain foods at high temperatures may result in other health risks. Following food safety guidelines carefully before, during, and after grilling to prevent food-borne illness and limit health risks is an important part of grilling with care.
Keep all perishable foods that are headed for the grill cold until you are ready to prepare them. This is an important step in avoiding food-borne illness. Here are some reminders:
If you like to marinate your food before grilling to enrich its flavor or tenderize it, remember to:
Choosing what to put on the grill has taken on new importance according to top cancer prevention experts from the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR). A recent report from these organizations suggests that diets high in red meat—including beef, pork, lamb, and processed meats such as hot dogs—may be linked to cancer of the colon. As a result of this report, recommendations include:
Although these recommendations include some old grilling favorites, choosing more poultry, fish, and vegetables for the grill may lead to some new favorites. For example, try Vegetable Kebabs (below) served over brown rice for a delicious summer treat.
|Steaks & Roasts||145°F|
To continue grilling with care, be sure to cook meat, fish, and poultry to a safe minimum internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria. This cannot be done by looking at the food. Due to the high heat of the grill, foods often cook faster on the outside and may look done before they truly are. To be sure it is done on the inside, use a food thermometer.
The high heat of the grill is also responsible for flare-ups that can cause the outside of food to become charred. Some studies suggest that there may be a cancer risk when protein foods such as meats, poultry, or fish are cooked at high temperatures. Researchers know that certain cancer-causing substances are formed during grilling and other high-heat cooking methods. Some of these substances are produced in "muscle meats" such as red meat, poultry, game, and fish during the high-heat cooking methods. Others are formed when the fat drips onto the hot stones or coals of the grill, accumulating onto the food when smoke and flare-ups occur. As a result, experts recommend that we:
Partially cooking food in the mircrowave, in the oven, or on the stove will help to reduce grilling time and decrease the opportunity for charring. This method can be used safely if the food is taken from the precooking source and placed directly on the grill to complete cooking. All perishable foods should be cooked thoroughly without interruption to avoid development of harmful bacteria. Additional suggestions to keep grilling safe are found in the box Tips for Grilling with Care.
Once food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature and is removed from the grill:
Photo credits: www.istockphoto.com.
Try this AICR Health–e-Recipe that shows how grilling vegetables is a great way to grill safely and increase vegetable intake at the same time:
Makes 8 servings of ½ cup each.
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