Food thermometers make grilling season safer

Wenqing Xu Wenqing.xu@AgCenter.LSU.edu
LSU AgCenter food safety specialist Wenqing Xu reflects on the importance of food safety as grilling seasons ramps up.

As Father’s Day approaches, I have been giving a lot of thought to my dad, and many fond pictures pop into my head. He was the one who put me on his shoulder at festivals so I could see all the lights and decorations.

He was the one to push the swing that made me fly into the air. He was the one holding me and running alongside my bike when I first took off the training wheels.

But perhaps at the top of my mind this time of year is the thought that dad was and still is the one who fires up the grill and dishes up savory and delicious meats. I love grilling season! A big bite of juicy grilled ribeye steak with a swallow of ice cold watermelon lemonade are some of my happiest memories from childhood.

Grilling tools were some of my dad’s favorite Father’s Day presents. We probably gave him too many because my mom started to complain that there was no room to store them! But to me, that’s what dads do – act as grill master for the family.

After majoring in food microbiology, I now have a new view of the safety aspects of grilling. I teach people wherever I go about the importance of cooking meat to safe temperatures and how easy it is to use a food thermometer.

Foodborne pathogens such as E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella naturally exist in animals’ intestines and can be spread to the meat products during slaughtering, trimming and packaging.

To protect us from foodborne pathogens, the United States Department of Agriculture recommends that we cook chicken to 165 degrees F, beef patties to 160 degrees F, and whole-cut steak to 145 degrees F, with three minutes rest time.

Meat thermometers are now a regular accessory that I carry with me to friends’ grilling or tailgating parties, and of course, a new addition to my Father’s Day gift boxes.

Now, with Father’s Day right around the corner, I encourage you to get your dad a meat thermometer --one little tool that makes grilling season safer.

If you keep the safe temperatures in mind, a simple $4 thermometer comes in handy and is very cost-effective.

Want something fancier? Get a digital one which has big numbers on the screen and is easy to read. If your dad says, “I can never remember those numbers,” there are thermometers equipped with specific settings for poultry, beef and pork.

Each category shows in a different color and once the needle points at the colored area, you know your meat is safe to eat. Or if your dad likes technology, get him a Bluetooth thermometer and download the app.

No matter what type of dad you have, there will be a suitable thermometer for him.

As we all remember our fathers this month, nothing says, ‘I love you, Dad,’ better than giving him the right tool to help him become the safest and best grill master around!