If enjoying your home in the summertime includes a barbecue on your patio or deck, follow these five safety tips for your grilling equipment and the food you will be cooking.
1. Location Always Matters
Maintaining an adequate distance between the grill and the outside wall of the house is important to reduce the chance of fire. Gas and charcoal grills should never be used indoors, in closed garages or on enclosed patios and balconies. Not only is fire a threat in these areas, the toxins released by the charcoal can be dangerous.
You should also check local regulations. Some towns and counties impose restrictions on where you can use, or even store, your gas or charcoal grill. For example, it is against the law in some places to use a grill on a wooden deck or a patio that is covered by a deck.
Make sure the grill is placed on a level floor so it won't tip, and set it away from any potentially flammable objects like cars, lawn mowers, gas tanks or compost heaps. Keep a clear walking path from the grill to the eating area so there is no danger of tripping and knocking down the grill.
2. Don't Play with Fire
Always keep a fire extinguisher handy for any emergencies and keep an eye on children in the area. Curious little ones might be tempted to put their fingers and hands on hot grill surfaces or barbecuing utensils, or could knock over a hot grill, causing significant injury or creating a fire hazard.
3. Prepare Your Food with Caution
Proper preparation of the food you are cooking is key. To avoid contamination, handle raw meat carefully. Keep it separate from other foods and never reuse a plate on which raw meat has been placed. Wash your hands in warm, soapy water after handling raw meat and clean all surfaces and utensils that touch raw meat with hot, soapy water before using with other food. Meat should be thawed on a plate in the refrigerator or microwave oven, not at room temperature.
4. Take Your Food's Temperature
Food should be cooked to a safe internal temperature — judged by using a food thermometer — to destroy harmful bacteria. Don’t simply judge its doneness by how brown it is on the outside. According to the USDA Blog, whole poultry should reach an internal temperature of 180°F; chicken breasts, 170°F. Hamburgers made of ground beef should reach 160°F; ground poultry, 165°F. Beef, pork, veal and lamb steaks, roasts and chops can be cooked to 145°F.
Don't let food sit out for more than an hour in weather above 90°F and promptly refrigerate any leftovers in shallow containers. Discard any food that has been sitting out for more than two hours in weather cooler than 90°F. For more information, visit www.fsis.usda.gov or call 800-535-4555.
5. Protect Your Feast from Bugs
After you’ve grilled the perfect hamburger you'll want to relax and enjoy eating it. That means keeping the bugs away. To help lessen insects' intrusion on your picnic, keep sweets and sodas covered and capped and eat while it is still light to avoid mosquitoes in the evening. Use spray repellent, mosquito coils or citronella-laced candles or torches to help keep the pests away.