Shrimp not the only thing on the barby

Summer might almost be over, but there's no end to careful food preparation or

During the height of the summer season, keeping healthy will help you enjoy all that the Alberni Valley has to offer.

Whatever activity you enjoy doing, it’s important to consider the food you are eating to fuel your energy and methods to ensure you aren’t exposed to harmful bacteria, viruses or parasites to put a damper on the summertime fun.

With outdoor activities comes eating more picnics, barbecuing and buying food from vendors. Harmful bacteria start to multiply quickly once food is left in the “hot zone” too long.

The first order of business is thoroughly wash hands before and after handling any raw food—especially meat, poultry and seafood. When preparing your meal, ensure that you do not let ready-to-eat foods, such as lettuce, tomatoes, or cheese, etc. come in contact with raw meat or its juices.

If meal preparation has occurred on the cutting board, make sure to use hot soapy water to clean all surfaces (refrigerators, counters, dishes, utensils, thermometers, etc.) that come in contact with raw meat).

Where’s the beef?

Instead of extra thick burgers, make burger patties thin so that they cook all the way through. When the internal temperature reaches 71°C (160°F), consider your beef burger done.

Since burgers can turn brown and look cooked before all bacteria are killed, colour alone is not a reliable indicator that a burger is safe to eat.

The internal temperature of the patty is important for safety, so, if the food starts to burn during cooking, raise the height of the grill or reduce the heat to more thoroughly cook the meat.

Remove the patty from the grill and insert the thermometer through the side, all the way to the middle of the patty. If the reading is anything less than 71°C (160°F), continue cooking your burgers.

A probe-type food thermometer with digital read-out works best for determining if your burger is done. Make sure all patties are ready. If you are cooking more than one, take the temperature in several of the thickest patties.

Remember to wash the thermometer between temperature measurements. Oven-safe meat thermometers designed for testing whole poultry and roasts during cooking are not suitable for measuring the temperature of beef patties.

Pre-heat the gas barbecue before cooking. If using a charcoal barbecue, use enough charcoal and wait until it is glowing red before starting to cook.

Use clean utensils and plates when removing cooked meats from the heat.

For additional information on safe barbecuing in the summer, refer to :

www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/securit/season-saison/summer-ete/food-aliments-eng.php#barbecue.

Using some basic safe handling techniques while preparing your meal in the summer’s heat will ensure everyone has a food safe meal.

Sandra Gentleman is a registered dietitian and has worked in a variety of settings on Vancouver Island. She is passionate about healthy, active living.

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