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Memorial Day kicks off barbecue season

SUN Columnist

Memorial Day, an American holiday observed on the last Monday of May, honors men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. We remember those we have lost and appreciate the extreme sacrifices of family and friends.

Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. People throw parties and barbecues and, for many, it marks the unofficial beginning of summer. We hope it’s a beautiful weekend to be outdoors, but whether the snow is flying or the sun is shining, it’s important to barbecue safely. The following food safety guidelines to prevent harmful bacteria from causing foodborne illness are provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

• When shopping, buy cold food like meat and poultry last, right before checkout. Separate raw meat and poultry from other food in your shopping cart. To guard against cross-contamination, which can happen when raw meat or poultry juices drip on other food, put packages of raw meat and poultry into plastic bags.

Plan to drive directly home from the grocery store. In fact, you may want to take a cooler with ice for perishables when the weather is warm. Always refrigerate perishable food within two hours and refrigerate within one hour when the temperature is above 90 degrees.

Once you reach home, place meat and poultry in the refrigerator immediately. Freeze poultry and ground meat that won’t be used in one or two days; freeze other meat within four to five days.

• Completely thaw meat and poultry before grilling so it cooks more evenly. Use the refrigerator for slow, safe thawing or thaw sealed packages in cold water. For quicker thawing, you can microwave defrost if the food will be placed immediately on the grill.

• A marinade is a savory, acidic sauce in which a food is soaked to enrich its flavor or to tenderize it. Marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Poultry and cubed meat or stew meat can be marinated up to two days. Beef, veal, pork and lamb roasts, chops and steaks may be marinated up to five days.

If some of the marinade is to be used as a sauce on the cooked food, reserve a portion of the marinade before putting raw meat and poultry in it. However, if the marinade used on raw meat or poultry is to be reused, make sure to let it come to a boil first to destroy any harmful bacteria.

• When carrying food to another location, keep it cold to minimize bacterial growth. Use an insulated cooler with sufficient ice or ice packs to keep the food at 40 degrees or below. Pack food right from the refrigerator into the cooler immediately before leaving home.

• Keep meat and poultry refrigerated until ready to use. Only take out the meat and poultry that will immediately be placed on the grill. When using a cooler, keep it out of the direct sun by placing it in the shade or shelter. Avoid opening the lid too often, which lets cold air out and warm air in. Pack beverages in one cooler and perishables in a separate cooler.

• Be sure there are plenty of clean utensils and platters. To prevent foodborne illness, don’t use the same platter and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry. Harmful bacteria present in raw meat and poultry and their juices can contaminate safely cooked food. If you are eating away from home, find out if there is a source of clean water. If not, bring water for preparation and cleaning or pack clean cloths and moist towelettes for cleaning surfaces and hands.

• Precooking food partially in the microwave, the oven or on the stove is a good way of reducing grilling time. Just make sure that the food goes immediately on the preheated grill to complete cooking.

• Cook food to a safe minimum internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria. Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often brown very fast on the outside. Use a food thermometer to be sure the food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature.

Cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees as measured with a food thermometer before removing from the heat source. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook meat to higher temperatures.

Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb and veal to an internal temperature of 160 degrees as measured with a food thermometer. Cook all poultry to an internal temperature of 165 degrees and never partially grill meat or poultry and finish cooking later.

• When reheating fully cooked meats like hot dogs, grill to 165 degrees or until steaming hot.

• After cooking meat and poultry on the grill, keep it hot until served — at 140 degrees or warmer. Keep cooked meats hot by setting them to the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals where they could overcook. At home, the cooked meat can be kept hot in an oven set at approximately 200 degrees, in a chafing dish or slow cooker or on a warming tray.

• When taking food off the grill, use a clean platter. Don’t put cooked food on the same platter that held raw meat or poultry. Any harmful bacteria present in the raw meat juices could contaminate safely cooked food. In hot weather (above 90 degrees), food should never sit out for more than one hour.

• Refrigerate leftovers promptly in shallow containers. Discard any food left out more than two hours.

• Smoking is cooking food indirectly in the presence of a fire. It can be done in a covered grill if a pan of water is placed beneath the meat or poultry on the grill; and meats can be smoked in a “smoker,” which is an outdoor cooker especially designed for smoking foods.

Smoking is done much more slowly than grilling, so less tender meats benefit from this method and a natural smoke flavoring permeates the meat. The temperature in the smoker should be maintained at 250 to 300 degrees for safety.

Chain saw safety

Operating a chain saw can be dangerous. Learn to operate this important tool safely and maintain it for optimum efficiency on May 29, 10 a.m.-noon at the CSU Extension Building, Archuleta County Fairgrounds.

Brush management

Gambel oak is one of our most common and prolific shrubs. Learn how to manage this shrub for greater wildfire prevention on June 26, 10 a.m.-noon., during our on-site Oak Brush Management Workshop. A location within the county will be identified for this hands-on training.

CPR and first aid

CPR and first aid certification classes are offered monthly by the CSU Extension office on the second Monday and Wednesday of each month from 6-10 p.m. Anyone needing to receive or renew certification can register by calling the Extension office at 264-5931. We will also schedule classes on additional dates with five or more registrations. Costs for the classes are $80 for combined CPR/first aid, $55 for individual CPR or first aid and $35 for recertification with proof of current certification. The type of first aid information provided will vary by the needs of the audience.

This story was posted on May 22, 2014.