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.

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Aug. 2004

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