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4 tips for safe and savory summer grilling

By Chef Lesli Sommerdorf for Harmons | Posted - May 22nd, 2015 @ 2:00pm

Memorial Day weekend is finally here and that means it's time to get grilling!

Whether you're a seasoned pro or just getting started, here are some great tips and tricks to keep those backyard barbecues perfect all summer long.

Safety first

Grilling is only fun if everyone is safe. Be sure that your children stay a safe distance away from the open flame and the grill. Additionally, there are a few safety precautions to take in the food preparation to ensure that the food is safe to consume.

Safety Basics

  • Use 1 cutting board for raw beef, lamb, pork.
  • Use 1 cutting board for raw poultry.
  • Use 1 cutting board for vegetables and fruit.
  • Do not rinse poultry. Simply pat dry with paper towels and discard paper towels.
  • Purchase a food thermometer to test food doneness.
  • Keep cold food at 40 degrees or less.
  • Keep hot food at 140 degrees or more.
  • If perishable food is within 40 to 140 degrees for more than 4 hours total, discard it.
  • Do not put cooked meat onto surfaces that had raw meat.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Some like it hot

For food that is cooked on the grill, a grill thermometer can help you make sure that your meat is not too hot aka burnt or too cold. If you follow these temperature guidelines, you can be sure that your meat will be just right.

Temperatures of Doneness

Beef and Lamb

Steaks: Rare, 120-130 degrees; Medium-rare, 130-135 degrees; Medium, 135-145 degrees; Medium-well, 145-150 degrees; Well, 155+ degrees Ground: 160 degrees


Steaks, chops: Rare, 137-140 degrees; Medium-rare, 140-145 degrees; Medium, 145-150 degrees; Medium-well, 150-155 degrees; Well, 160+ degrees Ground: 160 degrees


Cook to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.


Cook until opaque throughout and flakes with a fork or paring knife.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Hot off the grill

There are several different methods for grilling. The perfect method often depends on your personal preference and what you are cooking. This summer you may want to try a new method to spice things up.

Direct grilling:

A high-heat method, used to cook relatively small pieces of food quickly. (Steaks, chops, burgers, chicken pieces, vegetables, fruit, fish). To do this, spread an even layer of hot coals on a charcoal grill or light the proper burner.

Zone grilling:

Charcoal: Spread half the coals into a double layer over one third of the bottom of the grill. Spread the remaining half of the coals into a single layer in the next third. Leave the remaining third of the bottom of the grill empty. Gas: 3-burner: Turn one burner on medium-high. Turn one burner on medium. Leave one burner off. 2-burner: Turn one burner on medium-high. Leave one burner off.

Use natural lump charcoal. It's made from pure wood and doesn't contain any additives. When cooking with charcoal, use natural lump charcoal. It's made from pure wood and doesn't contain any additives.

Season your summer

Not all food prepared on a grill is created equally. There are many different tastes that can be brought to the table simply by using your favorite rub or spice. Additionally you can season the grill for an improved taste.

Seasoning the grill:

Once grill is hot, place grill grate in place and put the lid on to heat. Meanwhile, pour vegetable or canola oil into a container. Using tongs, dip paper towels into oil and carefully coat oil the grill grate. Discard the paper towels.

Looking for delicious recipe ideas for your summer barbecue? Check out our Summer 2015 Food For Thought guide! Inside you'll find fresh and delicious grilling and party recipes. Whether you want to learn how to make brisket, savory salmon or ribs, we're sharing our best recipes and tips with you! Download a copy today, or pick one up for free at your local Harmons.

Check out our other Ask a Chef and Dietitian articles for great tips and recipes.

Chef Lesli Sommerdorf for Harmons

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