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    Ten Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make During Grilling Season

    If you’re like most people, you’ll be grilling up a lot of meat this summer, but before firing up the grill, take steps to avoid these ten mistakes which could make for an unhappy cookout.

    1. Putting Your Raw Meat and Poultry in the Same Grocery Bag or Basket Touching Your Produce

    Raw meat, poultry and fish need to be kept separate from produce and other foods you might eat fresh or right out of the package. Don’t try to conserve on space by placing all your food into the same bag or basket. While it might take less space, it translates to more risk of cross contamination and foodborne illness. If you need to schlepp your groceries half way across town and must consolidate, put your meat inside a plastic bag within your larger shopping bag. If you must delay your trip home, bring along a cooler to keep your groceries cold.

    2. Shopping First and Running All Your Errands with Your Groceries in the Trunk

    Summer is here. On a 95 degree day, a car parked in the sun can reach nearly 140 degrees in little time, according to some estimates. That’s essentially a bacteria incubator. Your groceries should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer, or cooked or consumed within 1-2 hours to prevent bacterial growth and spoilage.

    3. Skipping the Soap Before Handling Food

    According to the Minnesota Department of Health, one square centimeter on a typical hand has 1,500 bacteria. Some of those bacteria are the pathogenic kind that can make you sick. Slow down and wash your hands before preparing food or eating. What’s “enough” when it comes to washing? Sing Happy Birthday twice in your head while you scrub with hot, soapy water.

    4. Using a Single Cutting Board for Raw Meat and Produce

    Cross contamination from a food intended to be cooked to a ready-to-eat food is a mistake that can be so deadly -- and so easily avoided. Use one cutting board for raw meat, poultry and fish and a different one for ready to eat foods like produce. Many stores sell inexpensive color coded cutting board sets to help you keep them straight.

    5. Judging Burger Doneness with Your Eyes Instead of a Thermometer

    Experts say color is not a good indicator of doneness. Instant read meat thermometers are so important in confirming that meat and poultry have reached the proper temperature. Hamburgers need to reach 160 degrees F. internal temperature and turkey burgers need to reach 165 degrees F.

    6. Putting Cooked Meat on the Same Plate You Used to Carry It to the Grill

    When you head to the grill with raw meat or poultry in a marinade, bring along a clean plate to hold and serve the cooked food. Placing cooked meat or poultry on a plate that held the raw cuts will re-contaminate the food and can increase your risk of a foodborne illness dramatically.

    7. Assuming the Organic, Grass Fed and Natural Meat and Poultry are Bacteria Free and Can be Cooked Less

    There’s an unfortunate urban legend circulating that pathogenic bacteria that can make you sick are only present on conventionally produced meat and poultry. Some people claim that grass fed beef never contains E. coli O157:H7 or that the pathogen is only found on corn-fed beef. These claims are just not true. While the E. coli O157:H7 pathogen is rare on all beef, when it is found, it’s found at equal rates in grass fed and corn-fed beef. Other research shows that organic, natural and conventional beef also have similar levels of bacteria. Your safest strategy is to take maximum precautions with all meat and poultry products, regardless of the way in which it was produced.

    8. Eating Pink Burgers

    We get it. Pink burgers are moist and juicy. But they also may harbor bacteria that can make you sick. While color isn’t a sure fire test of doneness (only a thermometer can say for sure) treat a pink burger as a red flag. Throw it back on the grill or ask your waiter to cook it a little longer. This is especially critical for the very young, the very old, pregnant women and anyone who is immunocompromised. Don’t let Grandpa pressure you with the “I’ve always eaten my burgers pink and I’ll be damned if I’m going to stop now” line.

    9. Using Leftover, Uncooked Marinade on Cooked Food

    Leftover marinate can be reused if it’s been kept cold and heated to boiling. But any marinade remaining in a dish or pan that has touched raw meat, poultry or fish should not be used without heating.

    10. Letting Leftover Food Cool Before Refrigerating

    Many people think it’s smart to let food reach room temperature before refrigerating, but doing so is like an invitation to a party guest called Clostridium perfringens, a spore-forming bacteria that can make you oh so sick. Actually, leftovers should be cooled as rapidly as possible. When large quantities remain, separate into smaller, shallow containers and refrigerate immediately.

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