July is National Grilling Month, and there is nothing quite like the aroma of delicious food sizzling on the grill. However, it is important to prioritize safety when it comes to outdoor cooking to avoid any accidents or mishaps. Whether you are a seasoned grill master or a novice, here are six essential grilling safety tips to keep in mind for a worry-free barbecue experience.
Choose the right location. Selecting the appropriate location for grill setup is crucial to ensuring the safety of people and property. Place the grill on a stable, non-flammable surface, such as concrete or bricks, and ensure it is a safe distance away from any flammable objects like trees, fences, or wooden structures, or heat-sensitive objects like vinyl siding. Avoid grilling in enclosed spaces, such as garages or covered patios, as it can lead to carbon monoxide buildup. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause death if inhaled in a large enough quantity. Grilling in open spaces will allow this gas to dissipate to safe levels.
Keep a safe zone. Establish a designated “safety zone” around the grill to prevent accidents and injuries. Create a clear area of at least three feet in all directions, free from children, pets, and any foot traffic. This zone will provide a buffer between the hot grill and any potential hazards, reducing the risk of burns or accidental contact.
Practice proper handling of propane. When using a gas propane grill, it is essential to handle the propane cylinder with care. Always inspect the cylinder for any signs of damage, rust, or leaks before connecting it to the grill. When transporting or storing propane cylinders, ensure they are in an upright position and never place them in hot or enclosed spaces. When connecting or disconnecting the cylinder, make sure all burners are turned off, and never smoke or place any other open flames (such as citronella candles) near the grill.
Follow proper food safety practices. Safe food preparation practices are just as important as the grilling process itself. Avoid cross-contamination by using separate cutting boards, utensils, and plates for raw and cooked foods. Keep perishable items refrigerated until they are ready to be cooked, and don’t let them sit out in the heat for too long. In hot summer temperatures, food should not sit out longer than two hours. If the temperature is 90 degrees F or higher, the time limit is one hour. Use a food thermometer to ensure that meats such as poultry are cooked thoroughly and reach the appropriate internal temperature to prevent foodborne illnesses. Contact the Extension office for a list of proper internal cooking temperatures for different food types.
Monitor the grill. Never leave the grill unattended while it is in use. Grilling requires constant attention to avoid accidents and flare-ups. Stay vigilant and keep a close eye on the grill at all times. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby, ideally a Class B or multipurpose one, and know how to use it effectively. In case of a grease fire, never use water to extinguish it, as it can cause the flames to spread. Instead, use baking soda or a fire extinguisher specifically designed for grease fires.
Clean the grill. Maintaining a clean grill is not only essential for food safety but also for preventing flare-ups and extending the life of the grill. After each use, scrub the grates with a grill brush to remove any residue. Additionally, periodically inspect and clean the burner tubes and ports to prevent clogs and ensure proper gas flow.
By following these six grilling safety tips, outdoor cooking can be safe and fun.
Keeping your family’s food safe is critical for our health – that’s why September is designated as Food Safety Education Month.
Foodborne illness can occur when we eat contaminated food. In order to keep our food safe, we must follow safe food handling methods when storing and cooking foods.
Following proper food handling principles helps keep our foods safe from the contaminants that can cause foodborne illness. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends these 4 steps to protect your family from foodborne illness: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.
Clean:Wash Hands, Utensils, and Surfaces Frequently
Wash your hands and kitchen surfaces before you prepare any food. Always wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, using soap and warm water.
Remember: Germs can survive on surfaces in your kitchen, including on your hands, counters, utensils, and on cutting boards.
Cross contamination is common in the kitchen. Cross contamination is caused by transferring dangerous bacteria from raw foods to other foods and surfaces.
Remember: Separate any raw meat, along with poultry, seafood, and eggs and use separate, individual cutting boards. Make sure to wash cutting boards with hot soapy water in between uses.
Cook:Make Sure to Cook All Foods to the Right Temperature
Cook food to the proper internal temperature to eliminate germs and bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. Use a calibrated food thermometer to get an accurate temperature reading.
Bacteria can rapidly multiply when food is held at room temperature.
Remember: The Temperature Danger Zone is between 40°F and 140°F. This is the temperature range that best supports the growth of microorganisms like bacteria.
Chill: Properly Refrigerate and Freeze Foods
Keep your refrigerator at 39°F or below and your freezer at or below 0˚F.
Perishable foods, especially frozen meat, should never be thawed on the countertop or in hot water. Leaving meat out on the counter or in the sink while it defrosts allows the meat to reach temperatures higher than 40 degrees, the Danger Zone.
Remember: It is important to refrigerate perishable foods within 2 hours, or within 1 hour if food has been held at 90˚F or higher.
Anyone can get foodborne illness; however, older adults, children younger than 5, pregnant women, and those with a weakened immune system may be more likely to get sick from a foodborne illness.
The holiday season is finally upon us. It’s a time for enjoying family, friends, and food!
You can make healthy habits this holiday season. It’s not only a single meal but rather an entire season of parties, events, gatherings festivities, and unhealthy choices that add up to that holiday weight gain we resolve to lose when January rolls around. As the holiday season begins its rapid approach, take time and consider those eating habits that set your new year off on the wrong foot. Why not make a resolution now to eat healthier this holiday season?
Just a few simple strategies can help make the difference and keep those unwanted pounds away. Here are some suggestions:
Don’t skip meals. Eating healthy on a regular basis will keep you from overindulging at holiday gatherings.
Use smaller plates for meals and gatherings and be mindful of portions
Choose more vegetables and smaller helpings of entrees and desserts
Drink more water and minimize alcoholic drinks and eggnog
Make healthier recipe ingredient substitutions when cooking and baking
Take a mindful approach to keeping your personal health goals in-check. We can all still experience the joy of the holiday season, without making food the focus. Make a resolution to be mindful and eat healthier this holiday season, and your waistline will thank you!
Photo Source: Auburn University IHSA Equestrian Team
Claire Reach is the UF/IFAS 4-H & Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) Agent in Calhoun County, Florida. For 4-H, she specializes in animal handling, animal safety, and animal sciences. For FCS, she mainly specializes in food safety and healthy living, but has found a new opportunity to work with First Time Homebuyers and the State Housing Initiative Partnership Program (SHIP) in the county.
Claire grew up in Alabama, splitting her time between Birmingham and her family’s farm, L & L Angus Farm, in Auburn. The family farm is Claire’s driving force behind the passion that she has for agriculture, which is a large part of the work she is doing in Extension.
These pictures are of my family on the farm in Auburn, AL. Photo Source: Dave Davis.
Peep some of the cows in the background. Photo Source: Elise Reach.
With a family background in Ag, she decided to study Animal Science-Production Management at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama. While completing her undergraduate degree, Claire competed for Auburn University’s Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, worked at Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in a research barn, and continued to work on the family farm. She graduated in May of 2019 with her Bachelor of Science and a minor in Agricultural Business.
Several home cooking/canning classes offered in 2021. Strawberry jam, chicken, pepper jelly, salsa, and mozzarella cheese have been made! Photo Source: Claire Reach UF/IFAS.
The Calhoun County 4-H Horse Club recently started up! (The 2 horses on the right side of the image also belong to me.) Photo Source: Dave Davis.
Shortly after graduation, she moved to Florida to work for Deseret Cattle and Timber as a Heavy Machinery Operator, but soon realized that her passion was Extension. The position in Calhoun County became available and she jumped at the opportunity to apply for it. Having just started in May 2021, Claire has not been with UF/IFAS Extension long, but she cannot wait to see what the future holds for her county. Claire says that she aspires for the Calhoun County FCS Program to be the area’s leading program for adults in practical home practices, whether that be home canning or healthy eating, and healthy living. All the programs that she offers, whether it be 4-H or FCS, follow the same motto: ‘learn by doing’. This drives the experience of each program, allowing participants to fully understand a concept or ask questions when they do not.
These are the “goodest” dogs of all time! Evie (Chocolate Lab), Diesel (Black and White Mutt), and Hank (Bassett Hound-laying down) Peep the chickens, turkeys, cat, and horses in the back ground! Photo Source: Claire Reach UF/IFAS.
This is Chick! For a mare, she’s pretty special. We have a great bond and she trusts me to do just about anything with her (i.e. shoot a gun off of, rope cattle, stand on, lay on, or let little kids ride) Photo Source: Tanner Mayo.
When Claire is not at work, she says there is always more work to be done at home. Living on a functioning livestock operation, she has several animals, including: chickens (about 50 at the moment), 5 guineas, 4 turkeys, 2 cats, 4 dogs, and 3 horses. She hopes to be able to add cattle to the ever-growing “funny farm” soon! It isn’t always about work, though. In her spare time, Claire enjoys spending time with family, riding her horses, long walks with the dogs, dirt road riding, and paddle boarding at the beach!
Stock up on canned fruits, vegetables, meats, and heat-and-eat soups for your hurricane food supply kit. Photo source: UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.
Now that we are officially in Hurricane Season (June1-November 30) and named storms are paying a call to the Sunshine State, it’s time to make sure we are prepared.
At the top of the list is planning meals for you and your family. Many people grab snack-type foods, such as crackers, cookies, and chips, or whatever is available on store shelves when the storm is approaching without having a meal plan in mind. Use MyPlate as a guide to plan meals to include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and dairy products. Foods from each food group provide important vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to properly fuel your body so you are better equipped to deal with the challenges and stresses that accompany hurricanes and other disasters.
Plan a two-week supply of nonperishable or canned food and juices that require little or no cooking and no refrigeration. Include healthy snacks and any special foods for infants, senior adults, or persons with specific dietary needs. Select foods your family likes and will eat. Plan meals and shop early before a storm is on the horizon so you have a greater food selection and can take advantage of sales to stock up at a reduced cost. Keep planned written menus that have worked well for you and your family inside your hurricane food supply kit in a re-sealable plastic bag.
Brenda Marty-Jimenez, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent with UF/IFAS Extension Broward County, offers the following menu suggestions:
Apple juice • ready-to-eat cereal • small boxes of raisins • breakfast bars with fruit • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Orange juice • hot cereal/instant oatmeal • banana • muffin • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Grape juice •ready-to-eat cereal • canned peaches • yogurt • bread with jam or jelly • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Chunky beef soup (ready-to-eat style that only needs heating) • crackers • carrot and celery sticks • nuts • fruit cups packed in water • vanilla wafers • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Canned cream soup (ready-to-eat style that only needs heating) • tuna sandwich on whole-wheat bread • tomato slices • unsweetened applesauce • cookies • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Canned chili with beans (ready-to-eat style that only needs heating) • dinner rolls with margarine or butter • broccoli florets • canned fruit • animal crackers • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Canned meat or cheese ravioli • three-bean salad (canned) • fresh yellow apples • bread with margarine or butter • fat-free pudding cup • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Egg-salad sandwich on whole-wheat bread • canned green beans • canned fruit • fat-free pudding cup • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Mac and cheese • canned vegetable • fresh pears • dinner rolls with margarine or butter • cookies • shelf-stable skim milk • tea or instant coffee • water
Remember the four key food safety principles: Cook, Clean, Chill, and Separate.
Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of cooked foods.
Wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water. Sanitize food preparation and cooking surfaces regularly.
Put leftovers in sealed bags or shallow containers and pack on ice or store in the refrigerator if it is running on a generator. Dispose of food that has been at room temperature for more than two hours (one hour if the temperature is 90oF or above) or has an off-odor, color, or texture.
Toss out food that has come in contact with contaminated flood water. Do not eat foods from dented, swollen, or corroded cans, even though the food may appear safe to eat.
Blackberries are one of the easiest fruiting crops to grow in the North Florida Garden. Fruits mature during the month of May and early June. If you don’t plan to eat your blackberries fresh, learn some quick tips from UF IFAS Escambia County Extension for saving blackberries for a special treat later on.