Heat up the BBQ -- it's grill time!

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

Nothing beats that first smell of summer when the neighbor lights up the charcoal grill. Of course, an invitation would be nice; but, hey, grilling is easy to do yourself! Jenna Hogan, University of Illinois Extension nutrition and wellness educator, offers some great grilling information and food safety tips.

"Always remember safety first," says Hogan. Place the grill away from buildings, bushes, and dry leaves. Also make sure it is sitting on a level surface. Keep a spray bottle of water handy to extinguish any flare-ups and prevent burning the food. You should clean the grill after each use, and if you are using charcoal, remember to empty the ashes to allow air to flow. Good care will extend the lifetime of your grill.

If you use charcoal briquettes, advance preparation is necessary to have a fire that is at the right temperature when you are ready to cook. A "starter" box or pyramid of briquettes will help get the fire started. Saturate the briquettes with charcoal lighter fluid, and let them sit for about 5 minutes before starting the fire with a match or lighting element. Leave the lid off, and allow the briquettes to burn until they are covered with gray ash. This could take up to 30 minutes. Then, spread the briquettes in a layer so the heat will be distributed evenly. Place the grill rack 4 to 6 inches above the coals and begin grilling.

Rubs and marinades can be wonderful flavoring agents to grilled meats. Hogan reminds you to always marinate food in the refrigerator. In general, most meat and poultry need to be marinated for 1 to 3 hours; seafood needs 15 to 30 minutes. If you need part of the marinade for a sauce, be sure to reserve some before placing it with raw meat. Never reuse marinade from raw meat or poultry to use on cooked food.

Make sure the proper temperatures are reached in the foods you are cooking to protect against food borne illness. Ground beef should be cooked to 160 F, poultry to 165 F, beef, veal and lamb (chops, steaks, and roasts) to at least 145 F, and all cuts of pork to 160 F. Visual signs cannot be relied on to assure that bacteria are destroyed, so be sure to use a meat thermometer. To grill that perfect burger and prevent loss of juices, do not salt the meat until it is nearly done, and avoid flattening the burgers with a spatula.

Once the meat is done, place it on a clean dish or platter—not the dirty dish that held the raw meat. This will help prevent cross-contamination. Remember to refrigerate leftovers promptly. Food that has been left out of refrigeration for more than 2 hours should be thrown out.

As the weather gets warmer and the major grilling holidays (Memorial Day and Fourth of July) come and go, remember to have fun, be safe and enjoy a successful grilling season!

Banana Boats

4 medium bananas, unpeeled

One-fourth cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

One-fourth cup butterscotch or peanut butter chips (careful of food allergies)

One-half cup miniature marshmallows

Cut alongside inside curve of each banana; press ends of peel to open. Fill each banana evenly with chocolate chips, butterscotch or peanut butter chips and marshmallows. Wrap each banana in foil. Place over heat, and cook for about 5 minutes until bananas are heated through and chips and marshmallows are melted.

Yield: 4 to 8 servings.

Nutrition Facts per Serving (8 servings): 145 calories, 4 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 26 g carbohydrates, 30 mg sodium.