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MHP Urges Safe Outdoor Cooking

MHP Offers Tips for Safe Outdoor Cooking

With summer in full swing and smoky barbeque smells filling the air, the Mahaska Health Partnership Emergency Department urges the public to be smart when choosing to grill.

“With the extreme heat we’ve been having this summer, people are choosing to grill outside instead of heating up their houses,” MHP Emergency Services Chief Medical Officer Matt Whitis, MD, said. “However, it’s necessary to take a few precautions when using charcoal or gas grills.”

When you think about grilling, the first risk you think of is fire. Dr. Whitis said the most common place for a grill fire is on a patio or deck, so make sure to place your grill well away from your home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches. It is also important to keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grill area and never leave the grill unattended.

“About half of injuries involving grills are thermal burns,” explained Dr. Whitis. “If you grill, make sure you inspect your grill and its surroundings before lighting it.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), July is the peak month for grill fires, but caution should be exercised anytime you are cooking with fire. Using outdoor deep fat fryers to cook food is also a becoming more common. Deep frying oil can reach temperatures of over 400°F and is a highly flammable liquid. When deep frying, avoid letting oil come in direct contact with flames.

Be sure to keep a fire extinguisher on hand in case a flare-up occurs. Do not use water to extinguish the fire because it can cause the oil to splatter and spread. If water comes in contact with the hot oil it will vaporize and turn into super heated steam instantly.

“Third degree burns can easily result from not taking the proper precautions when deep frying food,” cautioned Dr. Whitis. “Know beforehand how to respond in the event of a grease fire.”

Another health concern involved with grilling is cooking meat to its recommended internal temperature. The CDC recommends purchasing a meat thermometer to ensure that germs in raw and undercooked meat are not ingested.

Ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F and do not eat meat that is visibly raw in the center. Chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F. Be sure to clean all surfaces that come in contact with raw mean and put cooked meat on a clean platter, rather than the one that held the raw meat to prevent cross-contamination.

“In addition to cooking your meat to the appropriate temperature, you should also be sure to refrigerate any leftovers immediately,” instructed Dr. Whitis. “Food poisoning can still occur if you do not handle your food properly after grilling.”