The calendar has flipped over to May, which means that outdoor grilling season is fast approaching for residents of Northern Illinois. Whether you consider yourself a beginner with a propane grill, a master of the charcoal grill, or a barbecue pit boss, there is nothing quite like meat—and veggies or other sides—that has been grilled to perfection. However, food cooked on the grill could be contaminated with dangerous bacteria if the grill is not maintained properly. Today, we will look at some simple steps you can take to ensure that your food is both delicious and safe for your family and guests to eat.
A Dirty Grill Can Harbor Illness-Causing Bacteria
Whether you use your grill just about every night or only on special occasions, it is critical to maintain and clean the grill grates on a regular basis. Whenever you cook on a grill, there are inevitably bits of food that remain stuck to the grill grates—even if you cannot see them. These food particles are likely to attract insects, birds, and other animals, which can introduce untold amounts of bacteria—and even waste—to the surface of the grill. Even without bugs or birds, the food itself can become contaminated with bacteria as the grill sits outside in the sun.
With this in mind, setting the steak for tonight’s dinner on top of the remnants of the chicken from last night could lead to your steak becoming contaminated with bacteria that could cause foodborne illnesses. In fact, food poisoning cases tend to spike in the summertime, partly due to the increase in grilling outdoors, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
3 Steps to Food Safety on the Grill
While there are many things that you can and should do to keep your food safe at your next cookout, such as keeping hot food hot and cold food cold, keeping your grill from contaminating your food is relatively easy:
- Get the grill hot – You should preheat your grill for at least five to ten minutes, possibly up to 15 minutes. The heat will start to burn away leftover food particles, and hot grill grates are better for cooking your food anyway.
- Scrub the grill grates with a wire brush – Once the grill is hot, take a wire-bristled grill brush and scrub the entire cooking surface. The heat will help, and you should be able to remove all of the grease, food particles, and even “gifts” from visiting animals.
- Oil the grates, if needed – Certain foods have a tendency to stick to grill grates, even if the grates are properly heated and cleaned, and sticky food can restart the contamination cycle. You can reduce sticking by applying corn oil, canola oil, and any other cooking oil with a high smoke point to the grill grates while they are hot and after they have been scrubbed. Use tongs to dip a folded paper towel in the oil, and then rub the oil over the cooking surface.
When you are done cooking, turn the grill up again to burn off any food remnants and scrub the grates with your wire brush. You will still need to go through all three steps next time you cook on the grill, but your job will be much easier, and your food will be safer.
Call an Illinois Food Poisoning Attorney for Help
If you or a loved one contracted a foodborne illness after attending a cookout, it is possible that poor grill maintenance contributed to your situation. Contact an experienced Chicago food poisoning lawyer to discuss your case and your potential options. Call 312-981-0409 for a free consultation at Newland & Newland, LLP today.