Nutrition Corner: Get ready for grilling season with these food safety tips

Nutrition Corner - Mary R. Ehret

Food safety or otherwise known as the study of keeping foods safe to eat is all about stopping the growth of harmful bacteria and viruses in the foods we eat. Many of us believe that it’s the food manufacturer or store’s responsibility and not ours to keep foods safe. Knowing some basic food handling rules is important from the very young to the very old. We are responsible for keeping food safe to eat in our home.

Bacteria and viruses are ever changing and new strains do surface. Hence, our food safety handling techniques today are different from years ago. We need to assume that foods which are not termed “ready to eat” have some bacteria and viruses on them. It’s our responsibility to learn how to kill those bacteria and viruses as well as how to keep them from spreading on our kitchen counters and sinks.

Here are some basic food safety rules to follow when you fire up the grill:

• If needed, scrape the grill before grilling. Heat the grill to at least 350 degrees to kill any microorganisms before placing meat or poultry on it.

• Grill foods separately. For instance, if you are grilling hot dogs, keep them separate from raw chicken or hamburgers. Most people know enough to do this. The difficult part is keeping them separated on the grill. Sometimes there isn’t enough room and the chicken touches the hamburger.

• If you don’t have a food thermometer already, purchase one. Calibrate it before using. (For easy calibrating instructions, call our office at 602-0600).

• Cook ground beef patties until they reach 160 degrees F. A hamburger can be brown in the middle and still be undercooked. The most accurate way to determine doneness is with a thermometer. Insert it sideways into the patty at least 2 inches. Then, read the dial.

While the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends ground meats should be heated to 160 degrees F to kill microorganisms, the temperature for a steak can be 145 degrees F for medium rare. A medium steak is cooked to 160 degrees F and a well done steak is cooked to 170 degrees F. Steaks, unless tenderized by a process known as needling, aren’t contaminated in the center. Therefore, the bacteria are only on the outside of the meat.

Chicken should be cooked to 165 degrees F.

Pork should be cooked to 145 degrees F.

Learn how to use a cooking thermometer when grilling this summer. Practice good food handling techniques to keep your food safe to eat.

Here is a great rub to add flavor to chicken. Note: This does not tenderize — it only adds flavor.

Southwestern Rub

1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crushed

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Combine all ingredients. Store in an airtight container. Shake before using to blend. Makes enough to season 2 pounds of meat.

Use rubs on tender cuts of meat to add flavor. To apply the rub, simply cover the outside surface of the mate with the seasoning blend prior to cooking. Flavors usually become more pronounced the longer the seasoning mixture is on the meat.

Nutrition Corner

Mary R. Ehret

Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford Counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at

Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford Counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at

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