Q: How do you grill beef safely?
A: Great question - since May is Beef Month, it's a perfect time to focus on preparing beef safely. Before we take a look at grilling, let me share some facts about the beef industry. Cattle are produced in all 50 states by some 800,000 ranchers, caring for about 97 million cattle, according to Cattle-Fax, a company that tracks industry statistics. While the U.S. has less than 10 percent of the world's cattle inventory, it produces nearly 25 percent of the world's beef supply. In Kansas, there are more than 32,000 beef producers.
Beef is the No. 1 protein in America, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It seems that America's love of grilling is a major contribution to that preference. According to Weber's 2006 GrillWatch survey, Americans said their favorite food to grill is steak (35 percent of respondents), followed by hamburgers (14 percent), poultry (13 percent) and ribs (6 percent).
Here are some safety tips to keep in mind when grilling beef:
Tip No. 1: Keep foods at the right temperature
¢ Keep your foods out of the danger zone. In warm spring and summer temperatures, it may only take an hour for food to enter the danger zone - the unsafe temperatures between 40 degrees and 140 degrees. When removing food from the refrigerator, either promptly cook it or place it back in the refrigerator or cooler to ensure freshness, quality and safety.
¢ Keep an instant-read thermometer handy. Check the temperature of your burgers or steaks by placing an instant-read thermometer horizontally into the side of the meat and inserting all the way to the center.
¢ Remember, the proper internal temperature is 160 degrees for ground beef and 145 degrees for steaks and beef roasts. Not only will the correct temperature keep your food safe, but properly cooked food tastes better then over- or undercooked food.
¢ Don't defrost your meat at room temperature. The safest way to defrost your meat is to place it in the refrigerator on a tray to catch any juices. If you are short on time, use your microwave. Use the defrost setting if your microwave has one; otherwise, monitor closely to avoid cooking the meat before it is totally thawed. When defrosting food in the microwave, plan to cook it immediately.
Tip No. 2: Avoid cross-contamination
¢ Keep your hands clean. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water for 20 seconds after handling uncooked meat to prevent spreading bacteria.
¢ Keep kitchen surfaces clean. Use paper towels and hot, soapy water to wipe up meat and poultry juices from countertops and carefully clean all surfaces, plates, utensils, etc. that have come in contact with uncooked meat or poultry.
¢ Wash cloth hand towels and dish rags in the hot cycle of your washing machine frequently. Without regular washing, cloth hand towels and dish rags can be a breeding ground for bacteria which can then spread to clean surfaces.
Tip No. 3: Food safety is important for grilling, too
¢ Use medium heat when cooking on the grill. High heat can overcook or char the outside of beef cuts while the interior remains underdone.
¢ Check cooking temperature by cautiously holding the palm of your hand above the coals at cooking height. Count the number of seconds you can hold your hand in that position before the heat forces you to pull it away; approximately 4 seconds for medium heat.
¢ Clean outdoor cooking and eating areas. Keep paper towels and a bucket of hot, soapy water outside to clean up your outdoor eating and cooking areas.
¢ Be careful when you're moving from the kitchen to the grill. Be particularly mindful of cross-contamination when cooking outdoors; be sure to wash your hands whenever you're handling food, especially after petting the dog or touching the screen door.
¢ Take a clean plate with you to the grill for your cooked food. Never use the same plate for raw and cooked meat.
¢ Always marinate meat in the refrigerator, NEVER at room temperature. Never save or reuse a marinade.
Tip No. 4: Clean out your refrigerator and freezer
¢ Dispose of items in your refrigerator that are past the "use by" date on the package. "Use by" dates indicate the last recommended date for use of the product. Other dates also can appear on packaging. "Sell by" dates tell retailers how long to display a product, and "best if used by" dates indicate the last date for best flavor and quality.
¢ Avoid the danger of cross-contamination in the refrigerator. Store raw meat, poultry and seafood in containers or sealed plastic bags on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to prevent their juices from dripping onto other foods.
¢ Take stock of your frozen foods. Any type of frozen food stored constantly at zero degrees will be safe. Recommended storage times are for quality - taste and texture - only. Label and date your frozen food items so they are easy to remember.
Here's a grilled kabob recipe shared by the Kansas Beef Council that comes from "The Healthy Beef Cookbook," published by John Wiley & Sons Inc.
Mojo sauce is a classic combination of lime, garlic and oregano. It also is great with whole grilled steaks such as flank or top loin steaks.
Mojo beef kabobs
1 pound boneless beef top sirloin steak, cut 1
1 teaspoon coarse ground black
1 large lime, cut into 8 wedges
1 small red onion, cut into 8 thin wedges
1 container grape or cherry tomatoes (about 10)
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon salt
Whisk Mojo Sauce ingredients in small bowl. Set aside.
Cut beef steak into 1 1/4 inch pieces; season with pepper. Alternately thread beef with lime and onion wedges evenly onto four 12-inch metal skewers.
Thread tomatoes evenly onto four 12-inch metal skewers.
Place kabobs on grid over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill tomato kabobs, uncovered, about 2 to 4 minutes or until slightly softened, turning occasionally. Grill beef kabobs, uncovered, about 8 to 10 minutes for medium rare to medium doneness, turning occasionally.
Serve kabobs drizzled with sauce.
Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 285 calories; 15 grams fat
¢ If using eight 12-inch bamboo skewers, soak them in water for at least 10 minutes before grilling.
¢ When cutting onion into wedges for kabobs, leave root end intact so wedges hold together during skewering.
¢ To make lime wedges, cut lime crosswise in half. Cut each half into quarters, forming wedges.
¢ Serve with couscous and add black beans for a fiber boost.