Let the Barbecues Begin

Despite what the school calendars say, Pacific Northwest summers actually start in late July and continue into September. It’s an excellent time for outdoor entertaining, picnics, and grilling. Barbecues have been the foundation of many good parties and meals at home. While grilling is easy and adds delicious flavor to meats and vegetables, there are safety measures to remember. Here are a few to keep in mind the next time you start the flames.

Location, location, location, and other grill safety measures.

Keep the barbecue at least 10’ away from nearby houses or structures and clear from low
hanging branches. Make sure that the barbecue is stable and won’t tip to one side or topple
over.

Set up somewhere where children and pets can’t get to the grill. Besides the concerns with an open flame, the grill will stay hot for an hour after it’s turned off. Never leave the barbecue unattended – enough said. Keep a fire extinguisher, a pail of sand or a bucket of water nearby in case of fire. Do not turn on a gas grill with the top closed. Gases can build up inside and cause a fire when opened.

Clean the grill regularly, preferably after each use. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning, and remove charred food and debris before using. Coals can take up to 48 hours to burn out and can be added to compost as long as they are made from wood, free from chemicals or additives.

Keep it clean and avoid cross-contamination. Wash hands and utensils with warm soapy water regularly. It’s an easy step to forget, but bacteria can grow on uncooked meats and fish and you don’t want them to spread. This includes serving dishes, cutting boards, and dish towels.

Keep raw meats, chicken, and fish on separate and clean surfaces. Raw food and cooked foods should be kept on different plates/platters. Make sure all surfaces are clean, particularly if you plan on re-using them. Marinate food in the refrigerator and not on the counter. Don’t reuse the sauce – if using some marinade on the cooked food, reserve some uncontaminated sauce for later use.

Make sure to cook food thoroughly. Here are some interior temperature guidelines:
– Hamburgers should have no pink and be 160°
– Chicken, also no pink, 165°
– Salmon, 125° to 130° for a medium finish
– Steak is considered medium-rare at 135°

Let meats sit after taking them off the grill:
– Salmon for 5 minutes
– Steak and other meat for 15 minutes.

Food should not sit out for long, 90 minutes to 2 hours is the maximum time. Better to follow these guidelines:
– Hot food should stay hot. Wrap hot food in foil or put in an insulated container.
– Cold food can be kept on a shallow container on top of ice in a cooler, or stored in the
refrigerator.

When possible, keep beverages in one cooler and food in a different one. The beverage cooler will be opened more regularly, reducing it’s cooling ability faster than one that stays closed.

Environmentally conscientious – every bit helps.

Reduce waste and save money with reusable containers for storage and leftovers. Consider using re-useable plates and silverware.
Eco-friendly plates and utensils are available and can be tossed into compost containers after the meal. Buy local. Our local farmers offer great grilling vegetables, meats, and fruits. These products are fresh and full of flavor. Besides reducing the plastic packaging and mileage that comes with store-bought food, you are supporting our farmers and local economy.

Barbecuing is fun and a great way to enjoy summer. Grilling safety is important to avoid accidents and illness. At your next outdoor event, remember to keep hands, dishes, the grill clean and cook foods thoroughly. Enjoy!

Susie Landsem
Aging in Place by Design
Susie is a consultant for Aging in Place. Contact her if you have questions about adding safety and comfort solutions to your home.

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