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Archive for Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Medium heat ideal for grilling

May 25, 2005

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Q: We are having a barbecue on Memorial Day. Is it all right to grill frozen meat?

A: It's best to completely thaw frozen meat in the refrigerator before grilling so it cooks more evenly. Don't thaw meat in the microwave unless it will be grilled immediately because it might partially cook, making it the perfect place for bacteria growth.

If you choose to grill frozen hamburger patties, make sure you don't grill over an extremely hot fire because the center will not be cooked thoroughly. Grill over direct medium heat. Remember that the only way to accurately judge whether meat (frozen or thawed) is grilled to a safe internal temperature is by inserting a food thermometer into the center of the food. Color alone doesn't signal doneness, as a hamburger with pink in the middle can have a higher internal temperature than a brown one.

Hamburgers and other ground meat patties should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees, fully-cooked hot dogs and ground poultry to 165 degrees, and chicken breasts to 170 degrees. Whole poultry in the thickest part of the thigh should be 180 degrees. Medium-rare steaks, chops or roasts should be 145 degrees in the center, medium steak 160 degrees and well-done steak 170 degrees. Flavor-injected roasts should be 160 degrees. Fish should be 145 degrees. Never partially grill meat or poultry and finish cooking later.

Q: Is it safe to marinate meats before grilling?

A: Yes, meat and poultry can be marinated for several hours or days to tenderize or add flavor. Marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter. 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 or poultry in it. However, if the marinade used on raw meat or poultry is to be reused, make sure to let it come to a boil first to destroy any harmful bacteria.

Q: How is meat smoked? Is it safe?

A: Smoking is cooking food indirectly in the presence of a fire. It can be done in a covered grill if a pan of water is placed beneath the meat on the grill; and meats can be smoked in a "smoker," which is an outdoor cooker especially designed for smoking foods. Smoking is done much more slowly than grilling, so less tender meats benefit from this method, and a natural smoke flavoring permeates the meat. The temperature in the smoker should be maintained at 250 to 300 degrees for safety. Use a food thermometer to be sure the food has reached a safe internal temperature.

Q: What is pit roasting?

A: Pit roasting is cooking meat in a large, level hole dug in the earth. A hardwood fire is built in the pit, requiring wood equal to about 2 1/2 times the volume of the pit. The hardwood is allowed to burn until the wood reduces and the pit is half filled with burning coals. This can require four to six hours burning time.

Cooking may require 10 to 12 hours or more and is difficult to estimate. A meat thermometer must be used to determine the meat's safety and doneness. There are many variables such as outdoor temperature, the size and thickness of the meat, and how fast the coals are cooking.

Q: Does grilling pose a cancer risk?

A: Some studies suggest there may be a cancer risk related to eating food cooked by high-heat cooking techniques as grilling, frying and broiling.

Based on present research findings, eating moderate amounts of grilled meats, such as fish, meat and poultry, cooked to a safe temperature does not pose a problem.

To prevent charring, remove visible fat that can cause a flare-up.

Precook meat in the microwave immediately before placing it on the grill to release some of the juices that can drop on coals. Cook food in the center of the grill and move coals to the side to prevent fat and juices from dripping on them. Cut charred portions off the meat.

Q: What's the best way to transport meat to a cookout?

A: When transporting meat to the cookout site, take it from the refrigerator and pack it in a cooler with ice so it stays below 40 degrees. Coolers should be kept in the coolest part of the car, placed in the shade upon arrival at the cookout site and opened as few times as possible. Pack beverages in one cooler and perishables in a separate cooler to prevent cross-contamination.

After the grill is preheated and when grilling, remove only the amount of meat from the cooler that will be grilled at one time.

Also, make sure all utensils, cutting boards and plates are clean and that people handling the meat have washed their hands. Never reuse utensils or plates that have touched raw meat on cooked, ready-to-eat foods. Harmful bacteria present in raw meat and poultry and their juices can contaminate safely cooked food.

After meat is cooked, it should be kept hot at 140 degrees or warmer. Keep cooked meats hot by setting them to the side of the grill rack, where they will not overcook but remain hot.

Once meat has been removed from the grill, it should not be allowed to sit out for more than two hours, or one hour if outside temperatures are above 90 degrees.

- Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.

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