May is National Beef Month, and Nebraska has historically been known as “The Beef State.” So as the weather warms, the time and place are right to celebrate beef month with a barbecue. When handling beef or any meat, keep in mind these good food safety practices:

Clean: Wash hands before preparing foods and after handling raw meats, such as when making hamburger patties or cutting meat for kabobs. Clean and sanitize utensils and surfaces that contact raw meats.

Chill: Bacteria multiply rapidly in the “danger zone” when temperatures are between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. To prevent the rapid growth of bacteria, refrigerate or freeze as soon as possible after purchase. Beef can be frozen in the original package. For best quality, store roasts and steaks in the freezer no more than 12 months and use frozen ground beef within four months. The best method to thaw frozen meats is in the refrigerator. After thawing, plan to cook within two days. When using the microwave defrost function, the meat needs to be cooked immediately after thawing. Beef can also be cooked from the frozen state in a multi-cooker.

Cook: Cooking to proper temperatures will destroy harmful bacteria. The process of grinding to make hamburger allows any bacteria on the meat’s surface to be mixed throughout the meat. This is why ground beef must be cooked to a minimal internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, while a steak or roast should reach 145 degrees. Marinades are used to tenderize and add flavor to raw meats. If planning to use some of the marinade as a sauce on the cooked product, reserve a portion for this use before adding it to raw meat.

Separate: Keep raw meats separate from ready-to-eat foods, which do not require cooking before consumption. If possible, use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meats. Bring meat in from the grill on a clean plate or platter to avoid the transfer of raw juices to cooked meats.

Following proper procedures, such as clean, chill, cook and separate, will help keep you and your family safe from food-borne illnesses. What better way to celebrate National Beef month than to fire up the grill for a tasty burger or beef and veggie kabobs?

For more information on food safety, healthy tips and recipes visit food.unl.edu.

© 2021 The North Platte Bulletin. All rights reserved.