Barbecue Basics: How to Tell When Your Food Is Cooked

With summer in full swing and Labor Day just around the corner, you probably have at least one backyard barbecue on your schedule. Whether you’re hosting or just attending an outdoor cookout, you’ll want to know the basics of food safety so that you don’t end up with food poisoning. Meats are among the most concerning foods when it comes to proper serving temperature, but even vegetarians should be wary of foods containing eggs or dairy, since these ingredients can spoil sitting in the sun or even indoors for long periods of time. When you are firing up the grill for the main course of your barbecue, be sure to follow these tips and tricks for cooking your food to the right level of doneness.

Know the Recommended Cooking Temperature

Not only do different meats have varying recommended temperatures, but each cut can differ as well. With beef, for example, you can safely eat filet mignon at a cool medium rare temperature, but ground beef should be served well done. Ground beef is of particularly high concern, since undercooking this meat can put you at risk for E.coli. Chicken must always be cooked through, as well as fish and ground pork. You can, however, cook pork chops to be pink in the middle at about 145 degrees, and they will be safe to eat according to the USDA.

Keep a Meat Thermometer Handy

There are some tricks that can let you know if meat is done without cutting into it and losing all the tasty juices inside. Still, the only way to be sure is with a meat thermometer. When using a probe thermometer to check the temperature of your meat, keep the probe away from the bone, and try to aim for the thickest part of the center of the meat. If you don’t have a thermometer handy, take a look at the meat to note if it has shrunken in size through the cooking process. Cooked meat will also feel firmer to the touch, so a quick poke can help you feel out whether your food is ready to take off the grill.

Check the Grill Temperature

Many recipes will tell you how long to cook a certain vegetable or cut of meat on the grill, but these recipes will assume that your grill is at a specific temperature. Unlike an oven or pan on the stove, the temperature of your grill can be tricky to determine—especially if there are hot spots on the cooking surface. An infrared thermometer can give you a reading of the grill temperature, helping you to eliminate any guesswork and ensure perfectly cooked food for yourself and your guests.

Know When Food Was Cooked

Even if you aren’t in charge of cooking, you should know when food was cooked and how long it has been sitting out. Foods intended to be served hot or cold are susceptible to various bacteria at room temperature, so they should not be left out for more than two hours.

If you suspect that a summer barbecue has left you with food poisoning, you will not want to wait to see a doctor. MeMD’s team of medical providers can help you feel better from the comfort of home, saving you from the long wait and high cost of an urgent care visit.