(BPT) - Summer's here - it's time to slip on a pair of flip-flops and don your favorite grilling apron with that one-of-a-kind catchy slogan.
You know the one. Maybe it's "King of the Grill," "Come and Get It" or "Grill Sergeant." It's well- worn, and resembles a road map outlined in barbecue stains.
You're not alone. According to a study by the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA), 80 percent of U.S. households own a grill or smoker. The study found that 60 percent of grillers report using their grills year-round.
Cooking outdoors may provide a sense of relaxation and calm, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) reminds those cooking outdoors to focus on the necessary steps to ensure food safety.
It's important to remember no one can earn the title of grill master without these four steps: clean, separate, cook and chill.
Introducing some possible new slogans for that apron:
Keepin' it real … clean
Before preparing and handling food, it's important to wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. (Lacking a timer, try singing "Happy Birthday" twice while slowly cleaning your hands). Also, make certain all surfaces that come in contact with raw and cooked food are clean before you start, and are washed frequently throughout your cookout.
Raw vs. cooked: go to their separate corners
Be aware of cross-contamination. Keep the raw meat and poultry away from cooked foods. Use separate plates, cutting boards and utensils in preparing veggies and meat and poultry. Juices from raw meats can contain harmful bacteria that could spread to raw veggies and already cooked foods.
You can't judge a burger by its looks: cook with a food thermometer
Rather than a sign of weakness, a food thermometer is the best way to ensure your grilled foods are safe to consume. Meat and poultry cooked on a grill can be tricky. They may look done on the outside, but it is critical that they have reached a safe minimum internal temperature to kill any harmful bacteria.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Salmonella is estimated to cause about 1.2 million illnesses in the United States every year, resulting in approximately 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths. The food-borne illness can be avoided by cooking foods to a safe internal temperature.
Place a food thermometer in the thickest part of the meat or poultry, and follow these guidelines:
* Pork, lamb, veal and whole cuts of beef: Cook to 145 degrees Fahrenheit, followed by a three-minute break before carving or consuming.
* Hamburgers and other ground beef: Cook to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
* Poultry: Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
* Fish: Cook to 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
* Hot dogs: Grill to 165 degrees Fahrenheit or until steaming hot.
When removing the cooked items from the grill, be certain to place them on a clean platter, not on the dish that held the raw foods.
Keep the food dressed to chill
As the weather warms, it's important to keep food at a safe temperature at an outdoor picnic or cookout. Perishable food should never sit out for more than two hours, as bacteria grow rapidly between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. If it's a scorcher outside and the temperature is over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the timeline should be reduced to one hour. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers promptly, and discard any food that has been out too long.
Keep the hot foods hot by letting them remain on the grill. Chill the cold foods with ice packs or ice sources in a cooler.
"Ask Karen," the virtual food safety representative, is available 24/7 at AskKaren.gov. Weekdays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. ET, the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline is available by calling 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or via live chat at AskKaren.gov.
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