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Prairie Fare: Gear Up for a Safe Grilling Season

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist
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Keep in mind some safety tips when you stand at the grill.

By Julie Garden Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

Get a clean plate to retrieve food from the grill. Check.

Bring a thermometer to measure internal temperature. Check.

Retrieve grill brush from storage to clean the grill. Wait a second!

As I was helping prepare a meal on our outdoor grill, I paused to check my Facebook page. One of my Facebook friends had posted an interesting article about emergency room visits prompted by outdoor grilling.

But their visit wasn’t prompted by foodborne illness caused by cross-contamination or unsafe internal temperatures of the meat.

A study published in the American Journal of Roentgenology showed that six patients had wires in their neck, liver or intestines from the grilled food they had enjoyed. Some of the patients required surgery.

Turns out, during the grill-cleaning process, the grill brush had shed some wire bristles, which were left on the grill. When the meat was added to the grill, the entrée featured a “special” ingredient.

The authors of the study said more research was needed before you throw away your grill brush. They suggested wiping the grill grates with a clean, wet paper towel before firing up the grill to retrieve any stray bristles.

So, add “clean, wet paper towel” to your list before heading to the grill or use another type of scraper to clean your grill before adding the meat.

Keep in mind some other safety tips when you stand at the grill. Pick a safe area and place the grill on a well-ventilated, flat, level surface away from overhangs, deck railings and shrubbery.

Handle charcoal safely; never add lighter fluid directly to hot coals. To put out the fire, cover the grill and close the vents, allow the coals to cool completely for at least 48 hours and dispose of them in a noncombustible container.

Never leave a lit grill unattended, and be sure children and pets keep their distance from a hot grill. Always keep a bucket of water and/or a fire extinguisher close at hand. Use long-handled tongs and flame-retardant mitts to protect your hands when you turn the meat or vegetables.

Your best tool for high-quality, safe food is your meat thermometer. Be sure you are aware of these safe minimum internal temperatures. The internal cooking temperature for pork recently was reduced to 145 F, with a three-minute rest time. That is the same temperature as beef steak.

  • Chicken and other poultry, 165 F
  • Hamburgers (ground beef), 160 F
  • Beef, pork (steaks, roasts and chops):

Medium rare, 145 F (three-minute rest time)

Medium, 160 F

  • Fish 145 F

Add some delicious grilled meat, vegetables and fruits to your menu. For more grilling tips, see “Becoming the Grill Master” at and “Grill Something Different” (featuring grilled wings, salmon, veggies and peaches) at

Here’s a recipe courtesy of the University of Illinois Extension. Try some tasty, colorful grilled vegetables as a side dish.

Marinated Lemon Thyme Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast pieces (about 1 pound)

2 Tbsp. oil

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 Tbsp. chopped thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 tsp.)

Mix oil, lemon juice, thyme and garlic. Place chicken in shallow container and cover with mixture. Let marinate in refrigerator for 30 minutes. Preheat grill or broiler. Cook chicken until tender and juices are clear (165 F).

Makes four servings. Each serving has 160 calories, 8 grams (g) of fat, 23 g of protein and 290 milligrams of sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication – April 5, 2012

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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