Congratulations, it’s a grill!

What a summer! We’ve had unbelievable holiday weather across most of Canada -hot and humid. No wonder many people are keeping the heat out of the kitchen by turning up the burners on their barbecues.

Having a BBQ is nice; yet, may involve some health concerns.

The next time you are off the road and get a chance to put your feet up on the lounger in your backyard, follow these pointers to protect yourself from catching a food-borne illness:

First of all, pay attention to how clean your tools, trays and hands are when handling food.

Even though no-one plans to touch food with anything dirty, it happens.

Make it your habit to wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds (or, use sanitizing wipes or gels) before you start cooking and/or after you do other tasks while cooking.

Then your meal won’t get polluted by germs picked up when touching unclean items you forgot about, like raw meat, garbage, the bathroom, a pet, other foods, etc.

Next, be sure your food stays cold until you are ready to begin grilling because bacteria grow very quickly in temperatures between four and 60 C (40 F to 140 F).

Keep your raw meat separated from other foods; it won’t transfer germs to them.

Items like cutting boards, plates, and utensils which came into contact with raw meat should be thoroughly washed before using them again for cooked food.

If you’re marinating, marinate in the fridge so the meat temperature stays constant.

After, if you decide to reuse some marinade on the meat as it’s cooking, boil the marinade before brushing it on the meat.

If you’re getting a head start on your BBQ by partially pre-cooking meat in the oven, transfer it to the grill immediately, before it cools down.

When cooking, leave your meat on the grill until it reaches the recommended temperatures below.

Check with a food thermometer. If you’re cooking a variety of meats, be sure to clean the thermometer before poking it into the next piece.

This will make sure germs don’t get carried from meat to meat. Proper cooking will kill any harmful bacteria.

As you probably know, different types of meat have different ‘safe’ cooking temperatures.

Ground beef should reach 71 C (160 F); leftovers 74 C (165 F); and whole birds (chicken or turkey) should reach a core temperature of 85 C (185 F). Stuffed poultry should get up to at least 74 C (165 F).

Beef, lamb, or veal should reach 63 C (145 F) for medium rare; 71 C (160 F) for medium; and 77 C (170 F) for well done.

Pork should be cooked a little hotter: 71 C (160 F) for medium and 77 C (170 F) for well done. Raw ham should be cooked to 71 C (160 F), but pre-cooked ham, only needs to reach 60 C (140 F). Fish with fins such as salmon and tuna should reach 63 C (145 F).

Judging how well done a meat is using traditional methods (like looking for clear juices, or crispy outside surfaces) may be misleading.

Use a thermometer to be sure your meat doesn’t just look done, but is done.

While finishing up your meal preparation, keep cooked foods warm on the side of the grill for just a short time.

Later, when the meal’s done, put the meat in the fridge right away. Bacteria grow quickly when meat cools down slowly. Never let cooked food sit out for over two hours. Certainly, if it’s a scorcher, over 32 C (90 F) outside, all food should get put away after just one hour.

So, that takes care of the meat. Now, what other foods will round out your summer BBQ?

Typically, salads: potato salad, coleslaw, macaroni salad, and green salad.

Because the salad dressing used in these foods also spoils quickly, salads should be kept at or below 4 C (40 F) until being served. However, an alternative is: fresh veggies or fruit with a dip on the side. They are more convenient, healthier and less likely to spoil quickly.

But, since the grill’s hot, why not experiment with grilled vegetables? They are low-calorie and full of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber.

They are also easy to prepare. Just lightly coat them with a few shots of non-stick cooking spray. Then, dust them with kosher salt or a salt substitute and whatever other seasonings you like.

Some popular choices are: ground black pepper, garlic, onion powder, Cajun powder, or curry. Your imagination is your only limitation.

Some favourite choices are: eggplant, peppers, portabella mushrooms, onions, and zucchini. A couple of items that are a bit higher in calories, yet still a nutritious treat are corn on the cob, and white and sweet potatoes. Once you’ve spiced the veggies up, just toss them on the grill until they soften.

You’ll see -having a grill is worth the labour.

-Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant , and she can be reached at

Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry.

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