Grilling Tips for the Fourth

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The Independence Day weekend is a perfect time to enjoy outdoor grilling. Use these healthy grilling tips to keep your holiday cookout both safe and delicious:

Clean. Start with a clean grill surface. Before each use, apply non-stick cooking spray to prevent food from sticking. After each use, clean grid with a steel brush while the grill is still warm. Preheat the grill before placing food on the grilling surface. Remove charred debris to reduce exposure to possible cancer-causing substances formed during high heat cooking.

Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least twenty seconds before handling food. Be sure all utensils, plates, and cooking surfaces are clean.

Do not rinse raw meat, poultry, and fish – especially in the sink, since bacteria can contaminate other surfaces in the kitchen. The heat from properly cooking meat, poultry and fish will destroy bacteria. Be sure to wash thoroughly all utensil and surfaces after handling raw meat and poultry to avoid spreading germs to other foods.

Tongs and a spatula help to easily turn foods without piercing them, which causes foods to lose their juices. A vegetable grilling basket is ideal to hold smaller foods. Don’t forget a wire brush for cleaning, long-handled tongs, and flame retardant mitts to protect hands. When meat is cooked, transfer it to a clean plate – never place cooked meat on a plate which held raw meat. Always wash hands thoroughly after handling raw meat.

Grilling with fruits and vegetables. Cut vegetables in similar size for even cooking. Some vegetables take longer to cook on the grill – potatoes, carrots and corn on the cob are a few. If using in kebabs, try cutting these vegetables into smaller pieces. Tomatoes are delicate – cut into large “chunks” to prevent mushiness. Try grilling chunks of fresh pineapple, peaches or mango for added flavor to your next meal.

Protein foods. Sirloin, pork tenderloin, chicken breast and fish fillets are ideal for grilling. Trim off any excess fat and remove the skin from poultry to avoid grill flare-ups. Brush on a small amount of canola or olive oil to keep these lean meats from drying out on the grill.

Marinades. These tasty mixes are powerful flavoring enhancers that keep foods from drying out while on the grill. Combine one ingredient from each category (acid, herb/spice, and flavoring) for a quick and easy marinade. Add trim cuts of meat to the marinade, cover or seal and refrigerate.

Acid: Lemon juice, lime juice, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar or other flavored vinegars.

Herb/spice:  Thyme, tarragon, ginger, thyme, rosemary, basil, dill or cumin.

Flavoring: Garlic, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, honey, marmalade or jelly (apricot and raspberry work well), or dijon mustard.

Red meats can marinate up to 24 hours for maximum tenderizing and flavor. Poultry and seafood are more delicate and should not marinate for more than two hours for best quality. Discard the marinade or boil continuously for at least one minute before using as a basting sauce. If you brush marinade or sauce on poultry or meat while it’s grilling, be sure to cook it for at least 5 minutes after the last brush with the marinade.

Never partially grill meat or poultry and finish cooking later.  Use a food thermometer to be sure the food has reached a safe internal temperature. To be sure bacteria are destroyed, hamburgers should be cooked to 160°F, poultry 165°F and beef and pork – 145°F (allow to rest after cooking for at least 3 minutes).

Keep hot foods hot. After cooking meat and poultry on the grill, keep it hot until served – at 141°F or warmer. Keep cooked meats hot by setting them to the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals where they could overcook. At home, the cooked meat can be kept hot in a warm oven (about 200°F) or in a slow cooker.

Written By

Photo of Linda MingesLinda MingesExtension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences (704) 922-2127 linda_minges@ncsu.eduGaston County, North Carolina
Posted on Jul 2, 2015
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