Use a food thermometer every time you grill.
If you haven’t used your grill in a while, give it a good spring cleaning. Scour the grate with a wire brush. Save future cleaning time by using a non-stick cooking spray to prevent food from sticking to the grill.
Keep safety in mind. Place your grill in a well-ventilated, level surface and away from overhangs, deck railings and shrubs. Use long-handled tongs and flame-retardant mitts to protect your hands.
Preheat your grill. You can estimate the approximate temperature by counting how many seconds you can hold your hands four inches above the coals. If you can hold your hands in place for four seconds, your grill is at medium heat or about 300 to 350F (149 to 177C). If you can hold your hands in place for less than two seconds, you have a hot grill at about 375F (190C).
However, don’t be a hero when testing the temperature of the grill by this method because you could burn yourself.
Be sure to bring a clean plate and clean utensils to the grill to collect the food. If you use the same plate that held the raw meat, you could be adding some unwanted “secret ingredients” to your meal.
Salmonella, E. coli and other bacteria are unwanted guests at your party and often are spread by cross-contamination.
Use a food thermometer every time you grill. Don’t trust colour as an indicator of doneness. According to a study conducted by the U. S. Department of Agriculture, one out of every four burgers turns brown before reaching a safe internal temperature.
Be sure you know the location of your thermometer’s sensing area. Many thermometers need to be inserted sideways into a thinner cut of meat because their sensing area is on the stem instead of the tip. Some digital thermometers have the sensing area at the tip.
Many thermometers can be calibrated or adjusted for accuracy. To calibrate, make a mixture of half crushed ice and half cold water. Place your thermometer in the ice mixture and allow it to stand. The thermometer should register 32F (0C), the freezing point of water. If it doesn’t, adjust the calibration nut under the thermometer head until it reaches 32F (0C) and then check again.
Insert the thermometer in the thickest part of the meat, away from fat and bone. Clean your food thermometer well after use because a dirty thermometer can cross-contaminate other foods.
For safety, cook to these safe minimum internal temperatures recommended by the USDA:
Chicken breast: 165F (74C).
Hamburgers: 160F (71C).
Steak (medium rare): 145F (63C).
Pork: 160F (71C).
You can reduce grilling time by starting the cooking process inside. For example, you can use a microwave oven to thaw meat and partially cook it, as long as the food is placed on a preheated grill immediately.
Don’t reuse marinade. If you use a marinade to tenderize or add flavour to foods, reserve some of the marinade that didn’t touch the meat in a separate bowl. You can use that as a dipping sauce.
Meat, poultry and fish aren’t the only foods that can be grilled. Try grilled fruit or grilled vegetables, whether directly on the grill or in a foil packet.
– Julie Garden-Robinson, PhD, L. R. D., is a North Dakota State
University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the department of health,
nutrition and exercise sciences.