Safe Summer Grilling

Photo Credit:  Tom Harpel  CC-BY-2.0
Grilling food outdoors during the summer is an American tradition. The savory smell of grilled steaks and vegetables fill neighborhoods all around the country during this time of the year. Unfortunately, many Americans will cook high-fat, high-cholesterol foods like sausages and ground beef. In addition to the unhealthy saturated fat, meat drippings that burn on the coals release chemicals that may contribute to cancer. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are produced when meat is grilled or when fats burn on the grill coals or heating elements. Bacteria is also a potential health concern when grilling outdoors. Handle meats carefully, make lean meat choices and grill more vegetables for a safer, healthier grilling season.
Grilled ground beef patties are a summer fare favorite. Bacteria on meat is normally killed during the cooking process but under-cooked meat can leave live bacteria inside the meat. Bacteria on the outside of ground beef gets mixed up to the inside of the burger patties when they are formed. Cook hamburger patties thoroughly to kill harmful bacteria hiding inside your burger. A 1/2 inch thick burger should be cooked for about 13 to 15 minutes. Meats like chicken, steaks and fish should be cooked thoroughly to kill bacteria inside the meats. The only way to be sure chicken is safely cooked is to use a meat thermometer. The inside temperature of chicken has to reach at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit to be safely cooked. 
Cook sausages on low heat to avoid charring the outside but leaving the inside under-cooked. Bratwurst and Italian sausages should be cooked over low coals to prevent the skin from burning and splitting. Start with a lean cut of meat and trim all the fat off the meat before grilling to reduce the saturated fats in your diet and to avoid potentially harmful chemicals released when fat drips on the coals.
Try some fruits and vegetables on your summer grill for a tasty healthy alternative to meat. Tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini, pineapple, eggplant,  apples, pears, and onions are delicious grilled as a vegetable-fruit mix or as kabobs. Cook vegetables for 10 to 12 minutes over a medium grill. Use marinade for extra flavor.