A backyard barbeque is synonymous with Memorial Day weekend, and whenever you grill, you need a few necessary items -- such as matches, charcoal, grilling utensils, and of course, meat.
"Grilling food gives it a certain flavor," said Doug Schultz, a spokesman from the Minnesota Department of Health. "It brings out certain juices, certain flavors and so forth."
Schultz says grill masters should have one more important tool handy: food thermometers.
"Most thermometers will come with some instructions," he said. "But the main thing is, check the temperature. You can't just tell by looking at a piece of meat whether it's really done or not."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently found that only 34 percent of the public uses a food thermometer when cooking hamburgers. That's significant because pathogens could be present if you don't cook your meat to the proper internal temperature.
"It is important that you cook food to the right temperature, and the reason for that is that it's a kill step," Schultz said. "It's a way to kill bacteria in food."
Bacteria in food can lead to foodborne illness. The CDC estimates that 48 million people nationwide suffer from foodborne illness each year.
"Salmonella and E. coli can be very serious," Schultz said. "We've had hospitalizations, and even with E. coli, we do occasionally see a death."
To avoid becoming a statistic, the USDA says hamburgers, sausage and other ground meats should reach 160-degrees Fahrenheit.
Poultry should reach a temperature of 165 degrees, and fish should be cooked to 145 degrees.
Also worth noting is that a meat thermometer will ensure that you don't overcook your meat.
"It is important to err on the side of being safe, but you don't want to cook it so much that nobody wants to eat it and everybody goes away hungry," Schultz said.
It's just one of many things to keep in mind as Minnesotans begin the season of fun and fantastic food.
In addition to using a food thermometer, anyone cooking food on a grill should also wash their hands. When taking food off the grill, always use clean utensils and avoid putting cooked food on the same platter that held raw meat or poultry.
May 30, 2017