After too many months of freezing, sub-zero temperatures, biting winds, and way too much snow and ice, the wondrously warm weather the past few days have folks thinking "outdoors."
With the arrival of the "outdoor" season comes the outdoor cooking season (although some of us fire up the grill throughout winter) and health experts advise outdoor chefs to keep food safety in mind every time out.
Such tips can reduce the growth of bacteria that causes foodborne illness.
First, you outdoor chef supremes, make sure the meat, poultry or seafood to be grilled is fresh. Keep perishable foods refrigerated at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder until right before putting them on the gas or charcoal grill.
Frozen foods should be thawed slowly in the refrigerator and not on the counter where harmful bacteria can form.
Outdoor chefs also are encouraged to keep food in the refrigerator while it's being marinated. Also, left-over marinade sauce should never be used as marinade on cooked meat.
Of course, cooks should always wash their hands after working with raw meat, poultry and fish, and should wipe work surfaces, cutting boards and dishes with hot, soapy water before and after using them.
If you're new to outdoor grilling and don't have the timing down, you should use a food thermometer to make sure the meats are cooked to the correct internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria.
You should cook whole poultry to an internal temperature of 180 degrees F, ground beef to 160 degrees F, and ground poultry to 165 degrees F. All cuts of pork should be cooked to 160 degrees F.
If there are any leftovers, refrigerate them immediately after the meal.