UACES Facebook Grilling Tips for Memorial Day Celebration!
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Grilling Tips for Memorial Day Celebration!

person inserting a meat thermometer into a steak on a grill
Always use a food thermometer to check for safe cooking temperatures of grilled meat.

We don’t want our guests to remember our celebration as the one that made them ill. Here are some food safety guidelines to prevent harmful bacteria from multiplying and causing foodborne illness.

This weekend is the official kickoff of summer and that means those backyard grills will be firing up. Nothing is better than eating a big juicy steak or hamburger right off the grill while enjoying the company of family and friends. While we want our guests to enjoy the food, fellowship and fun, we don’t want them to remember our celebration as the one that made them ill. Therefore it is important to review and follow food safety guidelines to prevent harmful bacteria from multiplying and causing foodborne illness.

Safe grilling starts in the store.

Begin with shopping and getting the food home safely. Buy cold food like meat and poultry last, right before checkout. Separate raw meat and poultry from other food in your shopping cart. To guard against cross-contamination, which can happen when raw meat or poultry juices drip on other food, have the grocery sacker put your meats in a plastic bag by themselves.

Plan to drive directly home from the grocery store.

You may want to take a cooler with ice for perishables, especially if it takes you some time to get home. Always refrigerate perishable food within 1 hour when the temperature is above 90˚F. Otherwise, they should be refrigerated within 2 hours.

Marinated meats will enrich the foods flavor and tenderize it as well. It is important to remember to marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Poultry and cubed meat, such as for kebabs can be marinated up to 2 days. Beef, pork, and steaks may be marinated up to 5 days. If some of the marinade is to be used as a sauce on the cooked food, reserve a portion of the marinade before putting raw meat and poultry in it. Discard any marinade that has touched meat, once you put the meat on the grill.

Keep your meat and poultry refrigerated until ready to use.

Only take out the meat and poultry that will immediately be placed on the grill. Keep the rest in the refrigerator until needed.

 As you prepare the meal for your friends and family remember to keep everything clean. Be sure there are plenty of clean utensils and platters. Never use the same platter and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry. Harmful bacteria present in raw meat and poultry and their juices can contaminate safely cooked food.

Know safe meat temperatures.

Grill food to a safe minimum internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria. Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often brown very fast on the outside. Use a food thermometer to be sure the food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature.

  • Beef, veal, and lamb steaks, roasts, chops, and seafood can be cooked to 145˚F.
  • Hamburgers made of ground beef should reach 155˚F.
  • All poultry should reach a minimum of 165˚F.
  • The latest recommendation for pork is 145˚F except for ground pork which should reach an internal temperature of 160˚F.
  • As you add fully cooked meats to the grill such as hot dogs or sausage links, grill them to 165˚F or until steaming hot. Eating hot dogs right out of the package poses a severe health risk; therefore, it is very important to never give a child an under cooked hot dog.

Remember that kabobs of meat, vegetables or even fruit, are great for grilling. To grill kabobs remember to cut meats and veggies to the same size. One to one and one-half inch cubes work well.

Group foods with similar cooking times together.

Denser foods such as bell peppers and chicken will cook at about the same time, however if you add cherry tomatoes they may turn to mush, or even worse, slide off the skewer by the time the chicken is done.

If you do not have a food thermometer, they can be purchased inexpensively at discount stores, kitchen supply stores, and supermarkets. If you would like to receive a chart with appropriate cooking temperatures for most foods, please contact me at the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service in Howard County located on the second floor of the courthouse or call me at 870-845-7517 or e-mail me at I wish you all a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend!

Recipe of the Week

Here is a great recipe to enjoy alongside that steak, burger, or chicken that you grill this weekend. 

Italian Pasta Salad

  • 4 cups rotini pasta, cooked
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • ½ cup red pepper, cut in strips
  • ¼ cup green onion, sliced
  • ½ cup Italian salad dressing

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate for about 30 minutes before serving. Yield: 8 servings

Nutrition Information per Serving: 150 calories, 3 g. fat, 210 mg sodium, 27 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber, 5 g protein

Jean Ince