Summer brings on the craving to grill and that craving continues through the year! Millions of Americans will enjoy grilling as they gather with family and friends. Whether grilling outdoors or indoors, safe food handling is always important.

When shopping, pick up cold foods such as meat and poultry just before you checkout. Put these foods in plastic bags and keep separate from other foods in your cart. It is wise to have a cooler with ice in your car for all perishables but if not, plan to go directly home. Refrigerate or freeze meat and poultry promptly when you get home.

Thaw meat and poultry in the refrigerator and NEVER on the kitchen counter. For quicker thawing, thaw in the microwave and immediately place on the grill. Thaw meats, fish and poultry completely before grilling. If not thawed completely, the food will not cook evenly.

If marinating meats and poultry, do so in the refrigerator. USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service suggests that poultry and cubed meat may be marinated for up to 2 days and roasts, chops, and steaks marinated up to 5 days. If some of the marinade will be used as a sauce on the cooked food, reserve a portion before putting raw meat and poultry in it. However, if the marinade used on raw meat or poultry is to be reused, make sure to let it come to a boil first to destroy any harmful bacteria.

Use separate utensils, platters, and pans for raw and cooked meat and poultry. Raw juices are high in bacteria and could contaminate safely cooked food.

Never partially cook meat or poultry and save to continue cooking later on the grill. If you do pre-cook, cook these foods completely then cool, refrigerate and reheat later on the grill.

Cook meat such as steaks, roasts, and chops to 145°F. Ground meats such as beef, pork, veal and lamb cooked to 160°F. All poultry, whether whole, pieces or ground, should be cooked to 165°F. Fish and shellfish should be cooked to 145°F.

During the past few years, there have been a few concerns about grilled meats causing cancer.

Some research suggests there may be a cancer risk related to eating meat and poultry cooked by high-heat cooking techniques such as grilling, frying, and broiling. Current research suggest eating moderate amounts of grilled meats, fish, and poultry cooked to a safe temperature, without charring, does not pose a problem. Prevent charring by removing visible fat that can cause a flare-up. Meat can also be precooked immediately before placing on the grill, which helps to release some of the juices that can drop on coals.

So, keep on grilling, but keep your food safe!