Grilling foods to be safe and healthy

People rely on indoor and outdoor grills to prepare foods all year long. Not only can menu items made on the grill taste delicious, but they also may be healthier than foods cooked via other methods. When done correctly, grilling is a versatile way to cook tasty foods relatively quickly.

One of the challenges of cooking over high, open heat is the difficulty in determining just how long to keep foods over the flame. Take them off too soon and they may be undercooked. Wait too long and items may be dry and charred. Use these tips to make grilling easy and safe.

Preheat and prepare the grill

Be sure to preheat the grill to between 400 F and 500 F. Use a nonstick spray on the grates while the grill is heating. This way foods will not stick and create a mess that will ultimately require considerable cleaning.

Buy a meat thermometer

One of the easiest ways to take the guesswork out of grilling is to use a meat thermometer. By knowing internal temperatures in a few seconds, grillmasters can have juicy foods that are cooked to the correct temperature so foodborne illnesses do not become a problem. Cooking by sight is inaccurate, as the outside of the food may look well done even though the inside is still pink. Thermometers allow cooks to avoid cutting open foods to check doneness, spilling out tasty juices in the process.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture advises on minimal internal temperatures for meats and poultry (https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/safe-minimum-internal-temperature-chart/ct_index). Keep in mind that food continues to cook when it is taken off the grill. Therefore, removing a few minutes before it has reached a certain temperature is ideal.

Fish is fast

Don’t avoid grilling fish because of its delicacy. Using wood planks or any of the newer grilling gadgets available can keep flaky fish from falling through the grates. Plus, fish is an ideal go-to when one is really short on cooking time. If necessary, experiment with varieties of fish that are durable, such as salmon or tuna.

Leave an empty spot

Have an unheated area of the grill or one that is set to a low temperature so there is somewhere to move food if a flare-up occurs or if something is cooking too fast. This is also a good spot to finish foods that may need a little more time over indirect heat – such as burgers that require melted cheese.

Use sauce at the end

Avoid charring foods by using sugary sauces toward the end of cooking. Otherwise, the sauce can burn quickly and contribute to potentially carcinogenic char.

Grilling can be made easier with a few tricks of the trade. The results will be delicious, healthy and safe to enjoy.

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