From the Extension: Keep health and safety in mind when firing up the grill – Daily Commercial

Lori Johnson| UF/IFAS Family & Consumer Science Agent

As the temperature rises outside, many times we may not want to cook inside, so we turn to grilling.No matter your preference between charcoal or gas, the smell of BBQ in the air gives all the feelings of summertime. Although living in Florida allows us to grill year-round, many of us find ourselves waiting for those steamy summer months to fire up the grill.

When was the last time you cleaned your grill? The first step in keeping your food safe is starting with a clean grill. For day-to-day maintenance, use a grill brush to scrape down the grates. If using charcoal, be sure all previous ash from coals has been removed.

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Grills should be deep cleaned every six months to a year. To do this, disconnect the gas or remove the charcoal. Next, take out the drip pans and grates, and soak them while you clean the rest of the grill. For a gas grill, cover the heating elements.

Use a brush to scrub the inside of the hood or lid, wipe down the inside with a wet scrub pad or towel. Return to the soaking grates for a scrub and rinse. Finally, remove the foil on the heating element, return the grates and drip pan and reconnect the tank or replace the charcoal.

When purchasing your raw meat or other proteins at the store, be sure to keep them in a separate bag from fresh ingredients. When storing them, place them on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator and use ground meats within twodays and whole cuts of meat within 3-to-5 days.Otherwise, freeze for later use after purchasing.

The next step in keeping your food safe is making sure to use separate plates and cooking utensils for raw and cooked foods. Use a food thermometer to make sure the internal temperatures of the proteins you are cooking reach the recommended safe to eat temperature.

Whole cuts of meat such as steaks, chops, and roasts should reach 145F, ground meats 160F, chicken, and turkey 165F and fish 145F or until the color is opaque or if its a fillet it can be easily flaked with a fork.

As you fire up the grill, keep in mind the health of the foods you are cooking. By choosing lean meats, which are less than 10g of fat and less than 4.5g of saturated fat, you will be making a choice healthy for your heart. Trimming away any visible fat, choosing skinless poultry and seafood such as salmon, cod, sea bass or halibut will give your grilled meal a checkmark for health.

Remember veggies such as asparagus, bell peppers, eggplant, corn, squashand tomatoes are great for grilling alonein basketsor on skewers. Have you ever tried grilling fruits? Watermelon slices, peach halves, pineapple wedges, and plums grill well, and the natural sweetness can be enjoyed alone or added to a variety of cool summer refreshing salads.

Fire up the grill with something new this summer!

An Equal Opportunity Institution. UF/IFAS Extension, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Tom Obreza, Interim Dean and Director. Single copies of UF/IFAS Extension publications (excluding 4-H and youth publications) are available free to Florida residents from county UF/IFAS Extension offices.

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From the Extension: Keep health and safety in mind when firing up the grill - Daily Commercial

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