Have a Safe Memorial Day BBQ This Weekend!
Memorial Day is a holiday full of friends, family and BBQ. While enjoying the celebration, it is easy to forget vital safety precautions involving the grill and your food. To avoid illness and to keep your family safe, use extra care around the grill.
When using an object with an open flame, such as a grill, there will always be extra risks. Both gas and charcoal grills can cause serious injuries if used improperly. Grills should never be used inside or in an area with poor ventilation. You should be at least 10 feet away from your house or other buildings.
Charcoal grills use coals and are often lit with lighter fluid. When using a charcoal grill:
- Don't use/store your grill inside unless the coals are completely extinguished.
- Only use approved charcoal lighter fluid, and never use gasoline to light the charcoals.
- Keep lighter fluid far away from the fire, with the cap securely on.
Gas grills use gas or liquid petroleum to ignite the fire. Because of the flammability of the gas and liquid petroleum, gas grills have extra risks. When using a gas grill:
- Check for leaks when attaching/detaching the tank. If there is a leak, a qualified appliance repair person should repair the leakage.
- Open the lid when igniting the grill.
- If the grill doesn't immediately start, turn off the gas and wait five minutes before you try again.
Once your grill is safely lit, you are ready to add on your delicious meats and veggies. But wait … your food carries risks as well!
Food Preparation and Storage
If you improperly prepare or store your food, you could be putting your family or guests at risk of illness. Keep everyone healthy on this holiday weekend and follow these tips:
- Wash your hands before and after handling prepared and unprepared food.
- Separate your foods. Use different utensils for your meat and other foods.
- Clean your coolers and picnic baskets often to eliminate germs and bacteria.
- Fully cook your meats. Ground beef should reach an internal temperature of 160⁰F, chicken should be cooked to 165⁰F, and steak should reach 145⁰F. You can use a meat thermometer to check your meat’s internal temperature.
- Refrigerate leftovers within two hours of being cooked to avoid bacteria growth.
Chemicals and Meat
Foods that are cooked over high temperatures or flames at are at greater risk for chemicals such as Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These chemicals have been found to cause changes in our DNA that may lead to cancer. When cooked at a temperature above 300⁰F or exposed to smoke and char, your food is more at risk. To reduce the formation of these substances:
- Marinate your meat before cooking. Marinating has been proven to reduce the formation of HCAs.
- Precook larger pieces of meat in the microwave to lessen the amount of time exposed to an open flame.
- Trim off fat to reduce the amount of charring on your meat.
- Cook your meat in the center of your grill and flip it often to distribute the amount of time the meat is exposed to the high heat.
- The StayWell Company, "Avoid Injury Around Barebecue Grills," http://healthlibrary.franciscanhealth.org/1,1128
- National Cancer Institute, "Chemicals in Meat Cooked at High Temperatures and Cancer Risk." https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/cooked-meats-fact-sheet
By Aubrey Effinger
Marketing Intern, Franciscan Health