Select cold food like meat and chicken last, just before paying for groceries. Placing meat in separate plastic bags keeps juices from dripping on other food in your cart. If it is very hot out, you might bring along a cooler filled with ice to pack purchased meat. Go straight home from the grocery store and refrigerate perishables right away. If the temperature is above 28 C, chill perishable food within an hour. Freeze any chicken or meat that you do not plan to use within two days.
Washing your hands is one of the best ways to prevent food-borne illness. Before and after handling meat and chicken, scrub hands well using soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Wash them again every time you handle a different food. Use warm water and soap to clean countertops and utensils. To sanitize, mix 1 tsp (5 ml) of bleach with 3 cups (750 ml) of water in a labelled spray bottle. Spray this solution on kitchen surfaces, rinse with water, and air-dry or wipe with clean towels.
Make certain that you completely thaw any meat or chicken before placing it on the grill, so it will be able to cook evenly. If you are using frozen prepared convenience foods, follow the directions on the package. Meat and chicken can be thawed in the refrigerator or in sealed packages in cold water. Place thawing meat on the lowest shelf in your refrigerator, so it will not drip on other foods. If you want to grill frozen meat immediately, use the microwave to thaw it first.
Marinate meat and chicken in the fridge. If you want to use marinade while cooking, use a freshly made batch. Never re-use a marinade that has had raw meat or chicken in it.
Clean your barbecue grill before and after use. Make sure that the brush has not left any metal bristles on the grill that could get into your food.
Food safety experts say that using a digital food thermometer is the only way to make sure foods are safe without overcooking them. The following chart lists safe internal meat and poultry temperatures.
Some studies suggest that eating charred meats and chickens may be a cancer risk. Removing all visible fat before grilling can help prevent charring. Cook food in the centre of the grill and move coals to the side to prevent fat and juices from dripping on them. Remove any burned or blackened parts from meat before serving.
Take special care with hamburgers and hot dogs to avoid the E.coli bacteria that causes ‘hamburger disease.’ For children and the elderly, it can be life threatening. Make sure hamburgers are thoroughly cooked. Never serve a hamburger that is pink in the middle. Again, your best bet for safety is a food thermometer.
Have a clean plate and utensil ready for cooked food. Never use the same plate or utensils that you used for raw food. Once cooked, hot food must be kept at or above 60 C (140 F). Do this by setting the meat on the side of the grill rack (not over the coals), in a warm oven (93 C or 200 F), or on a warming tray. Now, enjoy the fruits of your labour.
By following these simple guidelines all summer long, you can be confident that you are a safety-conscious barbeque chef. For more information on food safety, contact your local environmental health unit. Food safety information is also available on the Health Canada website (www.hc-sc.gc.ca) or the Canada Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education website (www.canfightbac.org).