Health Watch -- Grilling to Perfection

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

You may need to add an important accessory to your grilling tools: a thermometer.

When it's so hot that cooking indoors only makes the house hotter, grilling becomes an attractive - and tasty  - way to prepare a meal. Nutrition experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say food safety often gets forgotten when people cook outdoors.

A recent survey found that more than half of all outdoor chefs don't know the proper temperature to cook meats to in order to kill bacteria and prevent food poisoning. About a third of all grillers leave perishable foods outdoors or unrefrigerated for more than two hours in hot weather. That's a recipe for bacteria growth.

Lona Sandon, a registered dietitian who teaches clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern, has some important safety tips for grilling:

  • Make sure you have a meat thermometer handy when grilling, and cook meats until they're at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit inside.
  • When preparing an outdoor meal, have ice-filled coolers for storing raw and leftover foods. Refrigerate leftovers or put them in a cooler within an hour of cooking.
  • Before you dig into the picnic basket, wash your hands or use moist wipes or an antibacterial hand sanitizer, especially if you've been handling raw meats.
  • Keep raw meats separate from cooked meats and other foods, and use separate dishes and utensils for handling raw meats. Color-coding makes it easy to remember which fork or plate to use.


Aug. 2004

Health Watch is heard Monday through Friday nationwide on the "Stardust" format of ABC Satellite Radio. Call your local radio station and ask if they carry the program.