Cooking up a healthy barbecue

July 2, 2009 3:47:50 PM PDT
Barbecuing and picnicking are Fourth of July traditions. And while it's great to be outside, but having food outdoors can be dangerous. From preparing to handling, there are food safety tips cooks need to know to avoid food poisoning at the next cook-out. An illness caused by how food is prepared is extremely common. Every day, thousands of Americans get sick from food contaminated by bacteria and 900 people a day end up in the hospital. Outdoor cooking is a prime environment for food to be mishandled or not properly prepared.

Shopper Karen Witherspoon is planning her weekend barbecue.

"I bought turkey, chicken, fish and I'm gonna be grilling it," she said.

Sharon Mcgee will be putting ribs on her grill.

"I always cook the ribs first in the oven, then sauce and then put them on the grill to avoid any issues," she said.

But whether grilling ribs, chicken or hamburgers -- avoiding health problems should be everyone's concern. Catherine Golub is a nutritionist at Metropolitan Hospital and says food temperature is a big concern.

"Things need to be iced down or kept in the refrigerator until it's time to serve," she said.

Experts advise buying only what you can fit inside your fridge, and if you need to defrost meat, do it inside the refrigerator, not outside.

"Never leave your food defrosting on the counter, it's so unsafe," she said. "It allows the bacteria to grow out of control."

When grilling, use a meat thermometer to be safe. If you choose not to use one, at least grill the meats until you see they are well cooked.

"You should really cook your meats until there is no pink left," Golub said.

Food placed outdoors should not be left out for more than two hours. If the temperature is above 90 degrees, then no more than one hour. And be careful about leftovers.

"If the food was out for more than two hours, then you definitely want to throw it away," Golub said.

Also, wash fruits and vegetables well, and that includes watermelon.

"Watermelon can carry contaminants from mishandling or from the soil that it is grow in," Golub said. "It's really important to wash the exterior of watermelon."

That's because the knife that cuts through the outside can then contaminate the inside.

And wash your hands before, during and after grilling, picnicking and cooking. If you're in a picnic area or at a beach, the most important picnic item is a hand sanitizing gel.

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