We are so ready for BBQ season to start. No need to wait for Memorial Day, weather permitting, to gather a crew — big or small — and fire up your grill. Whether you’re hosting a potluck or you’re choosing to cook it all, now’s the time to give some thought to food safety and warmer weather. We asked the butcher to run us through some tips based on your questions. Not the sexiest topic, but very important.
DO YOU KEEP YOUR PORK SEPARATE FROM YOUR BEEF OR YOUR CHICKEN WHEN GRILLING?
It depends on what I’m doing. Don’t mix burger meat with raw chicken, yeah, that’s a food safety standard. But I’m not afraid of cooking everything on the same grill in the same hot area. I’d like to draw attention to hand washing. This is where the problem is coming from – people get sick from their own hands. Let’s say you handled raw chicken and then you set up a burger plate including raw lettuce and you didn’t wash your hands in between. Then you eat the burger without washing your hands. That’s the problem. Whoever is grilling really should not be touching anything else. If you’re concerned about food safety, have someone else with clean hands set up the plates.
There are bacterial concerns specific to certain proteins, too. You need to be aware of temperature and time of cooking. If you don’t have an easy way to wash your hands when you’re cooking outside, like if you’re camping, wear gloves. You can get them anywhere. You can get nitrile if you’re allergic to latex. And don’t forget to pack your meat thermometer.
WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO KEEP THINGS COLD AT A BBQ?
Keeping food cold keeps it from spoiling and people getting sick. True. But people blame food for illness because of ignorance rather than knowledge. So I’m going to repeat myself: wash your hands. Food illness is coming from people picking noses and taking a leak in the forest. It’s about going to the bathroom and not washing your hands before eating. Yes, keep things cold, but if you’re not washing your hands, it does not matter. You would be surprised at how effective hand washing is – and how few people do it.
Then, get a USDA spoilage chart and read it. Really read it. Everything has an exposure lifetime – beef, mayonnaise, whatever it is you’re cooking. Set up an ice bath, great, but be smart about it. Cover it. Don’t leave stuff out for half a day uncovered in an ice bath. It’s not only the heat, people; it’s the insects. And don’t freak out so much. Stress is a killer. Part of a healthy diet is a healthy piece of mind.
HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR CUTTING BOARDS CLEAN?
My trick at home, besides constantly washing them in hot soapy water, is to get as many as you can. We bought a dozen bamboo ones so we have a bunch we can rock through. We always have a clean one. One of our staff members says he always oils his boards ahead of time and it makes them easier to wash. He just uses olive oil. Smart.
DO YOU HAVE FOOD SAFETY TIPS FOR BRINGING MEAT CAMPING?
Buy it frozen. It’s more reliable than sandwiching steaks between freezer packs. You can defrost it in your freezer bag or cooler and then it’s ready to go. This works for boating, too. There is a stigma with frozen that’s silly. I cook frozen meat all of the time. It’s the best. And we freeze fresh and cut and grind specifically for the freezer so we have the right amount of inventory.