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BBQ Food Safety Tips for Your Summer Grilling

Although some Canadians enjoy their barbecues all year round, the hot summer season is when most people choose to fire up their grills and invite their friends and family for an enjoyable time in the sun. As with any type of cooking, there are a variety of food safety considerations to take into account this summer to avoid foodborne illness and ensure that your grilling season goes according to plan.

Before you start up the grill

Effective food safety starts with your trip to the grocery store. It’s important to remain vigilant about food safety while shopping, especially when purchasing meat products. When shopping, be sure that the last thing you pick up before heading to the checkout are meat products. It’s important to keep raw meat products separated from other food items while shopping in order to avoid cross-contamination resulting from torn or loose packaging, which can allow meat juices to escape from their packages and contaminate other grocery items. It is a good idea to bring an insulated grocery bag or cooler that will keep your meat products separate in the cart and chilled on the trip home.
Once you arrive home from your shopping trip, remember to immediately refrigerate your meat products and other perishables - this should be done within two hours of picking it up at the grocery store. It’s important to keep all raw meat products outside of the temperature danger zone of 4 degrees Celsius to 60 Celsius since dangerous foodborne bacteria can grow in these temperatures within just two hours.

Safe food preparation

If the meat products you plan on grilling up are frozen, you’ll need to thaw them safely before firing up the BBQ. Thawing should always be done in the refrigerator instead of on your kitchen counter, where the risks of bacterial growth are much higher. If you are planning to go immediately from thawing your food to grilling it, then defrosting meats in the microwave is also an acceptable practice. If you have surprise company coming over, rather than thawing meat on the counter, you can cook steaks from frozen on the BBQ following these steps.
Marinating, like thawing, should also take place in the refrigerator, and marinade that has come into contact with raw meat should never be reused on cooked food, which is simple to do if you set aside some extra when you make your marinade. Before you start grilling your food, remember that thorough handwashing practices are another crucial step in avoiding foodborne illnesses, especially when handling raw chicken, poultry, and seafood products.

Food safety on the grill

Before you begin grilling, inspect your BBQ tools and utensils to ensure that they have been cleaned and that the metal bristles on your brush are not coming loose, as these can cause injury if accidentally eaten. When grilling raw meat products on the BBQ, it’s important to know their safe internal temperatures in order to avoid dangerous bacteria like E.Coli and salmonella. Knowing the internal temperature of your food using a digital food thermometer is the only reliable indication of a food’s preparedness - colour alone does not indicate when food is safe to eat.
Remember to check the internal temperature of your meat once it has been taken off the barbecue, as this will give you a much more accurate temperature reading. As with any tool or surface coming into contact with meat products, your thermometer should be properly cleaned between each reading to avoid potential cross-contaminations. When serving your grilled foods, remember to use a new plate rather than the one that has been in contact with raw meats.