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Healthy and Safe Grilling Tips for the Summer

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Summertime means grilling time! It’s perfect for those hot nights when turning on the oven seems like pure torture. Grilling also gives you the chance to eat healthy, as it’s the perfect way to cook lean meats and garden-fresh veggies.

However, to grill safely, there’s a lot to consider. After all, you do not want to ruin a backyard barbecue with a bad tummy ache or a burn! To avoid this, I always recommend the following tips for a safe grilling season.

Safe Grilling Tips

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Transport meat safely. Whether this means from the store to your kitchen or from your home to a neighborhood party, keep your meat cold at all times and separate it from all other food items. After grocery shopping, promptly refrigerate or freeze your meat. If you’re headed out to grill, pack a cooler with plenty of ice.

The USDA recommends that meat should be kept at 40 degrees or below; otherwise, it can spoil and make you sick. To minimize bacteria growth and avoid cross-contamination, I always keep a separate cooler just for meat whenever we picnic.

Clean your grill and prep surfaces. Before you put your steak, fish or chicken on the grill, make sure you’ve cleaned the grill grates and surface. Turn the grill on high and use a stainless steel brush to scrub the grill grates. If your grill has side tables, make sure you’ve washed the surfaces with hot water and soap.

I often use a homemade vinegar and water spray to clean the surface. Wash your hands with hot soapy water before and after handling meat. Use different utensils and plates for raw meat and cooked meat. Never use a plate or platter that’s touched raw meat without washing it first.

Cook your meat well. To guarantee that meat is grilled to a safe temperature, you should always use a reliable meat thermometer. According to the USDA, the following is determined safe minimum internal temperatures: 

• Whole poultry: 165 degrees
• Poultry breasts: 165 degrees
• Ground poultry: 165 degrees
• Ground meats: 160 degrees
• Beef, pork, lamb, and veal (steaks, roasts and chops): 145 degrees. Allow the meat to rest for at least 3 minutes after cooking.

Healthy Grilling Tips

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Besides grilling safely, it is important to make sure what you’re grilling is as healthy as possible. There are so many grill accessories on the market that allow you to get as creative as you want with your healthy options: a grilling stone for a veggie pizza, a rotisserie for lemon chicken or a grilling basket to hold chopped veggies. What could be better for a summer evening?

To keep your grilling choices healthy, try a few of these tips.

Trim the fat. Ask your butcher to help you if needed. Your butcher can also offer you great tips on how to grill certain cuts of meat. Besides the health benefits, avoiding fatty meat will also help to keep your grill clear of fat drippings.

Make your own marinade. Steer clear of preservatives and too much sugar by making your own marinades with fresh garlic, lemon, salt and pepper. You can even add in fresh herbs from the garden.

Grill fruit. Yes, fruit—your grill isn’t just for dinner! Add pineapple chunks to your next kabob or make grilled peaches sprinkled with organic brown sugar for dessert.

Use your grill for steaming. Make a foil packet filled with vegetables or potatoes to steam on the grill. Add some butter, salt and pepper and you are all set. Just make sure your foil is “tented” to let the heat flow, creating a convection-like oven.

Wherever you choose to grill this summer, keep it healthy and safe. If you have tips, tricks or nutritious recipes for grilling, please share!

Sommer Poquette is a popular mom blogger, proud mom of two, and the driving force behind the Green and Clean Mom website website. Sommer is also a children’s book author, and writes online for The Home Depot. To view a wide selection of grills and grilling accessories, including those reviewed by Sommer, you can visit Home Depot's grilling section here. You can also find interesting stats about fathers and grilling in this Home Depot guide here. Read all of Sommer's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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