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USDA offers grilling guidelines for cooking out

May is Iowa Beef Month. To celebrate, fire up those grills and throw on an all-American juicy hamburger or a mouth-watering steak.

The USDA stresses the importance of using simple guidelines for grilling food safely to prevent bacteria and food-borne illness.

Completely thaw meat before grilling so it cooks more evenly. Use the refrigerator for slow, safe thawing or thaw sealed packages in cold water. For quicker thawing, use microwave defrost if the food will be placed immediately on the grill.

Marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Beef and steaks may be marinated up to 5 days. If some of the marinade is to be used as a sauce on the cooked food, reserve a portion of the marinade before putting raw meat in it.

Meat cooked on a grill often browns very fast on the outside. Use a food thermometer to be sure the food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 145 °F.

Use a clean plate when taking beef off the grill. Don’t put cooked food on the same platter that held raw meat. Any harmful bacteria present in the raw meat juices could contaminate safely cooked food.

In hot weather, food should never sit out for more than a hour.

Iowa is a major beef producing state with nearly 3.85 million head of cattle.