Whether you are getting together with friends and family for the holiday at the park, lake, or in the backyard, chances are grilling out is on agenda. Before you head out to the grocery store and stock up, remember there are important considerations when preparing food on the grill. Follow these steps to help avoid foodborne illness from becoming the center of attention at the party.
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How to Buy
When shopping for meat and poultry at the grocery store, pick up those items last so they stay as cold as possible when in transport to the refrigerator or freezer. Place meat and poultry in a separate section of the cart to guard against cross contamination with other foods. If you will not be driving straight home, make sure you have a cooler in your car to store the meat and poultry temporarily. Once you get home, place meat and poultry in the refrigerator immediately or freezer if you will not be cooking for more than 2 days.
How to Prepare
When thawing frozen meat, make sure you thaw completely to allow for even cooking throughout. If you have plenty of time to thaw, use the refrigerator for slow and safe thawing. Otherwise, you can use the microwave on defrost to thaw right before grilling. If you are going to marinate the meat, make sure you do so in the refrigerator and not on the counter. Never use marinade that has come in contact with raw meat to be used later as a sauce, rather reserve some of the marinade before placing with the raw meat.
How to Transport
Bacteria on food can grow within twenty minutes if the meat is in the “danger zone” (40 -140 degrees Fahrenheit). When transporting raw meat, it is best to use an insulated cooler and immediately place the meat in the cooler after removing from the refrigerator. If you are driving a long distance, pack the cooler with ice to keep the meat under 40 degrees. Keep the cooler in a shaded area with the lid tightly sealed as much as possible.
How to Get Ready to Grill
Use only clean utensils, platters, and dishes when handling raw meat. Never place cooked meat on a surface that has come in contact with raw meat. To help from doubling up on platters, line the platter with aluminum foil and make sure no punctures allow any juices from the raw meat onto the platter. Once the meat is ready to come off the grill, throw away the foil and place on the clean platter.
How to Know When it is Ready
Cooking meat, poultry, and fish to the right temperature is critical to avoid foodborne illnesses. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends these minimum internal temperatures when grilling:
Poultry: 165 degrees
Ground Meat: 160 degrees
Beef, Pork, Lamb, and Veal: 145 degrees, allow to rest 3 minutes
Foodborne illness can come on quickly and be very serious. Take these steps to protect you and your friends and family from missing out on a great holiday celebration due to poor food handling. For more information on how to properly handle leftovers and reheating meat, please visit the USDA Safe Food Handling  website.