Virginia Tech expert offers best cookout tips

Your weekend cookout may be missing one key tool, and you may be leaving food out for too long.

“Your best tool in a cookout or grilling situation is a meat thermometer,” said Robert Williams, food science and technology professor at Virginia Tech.

Ground meats should be cooked to 160 degrees, Williams said. Steaks, roasts and chops get cooked to 145 degrees, with at least three minutes to rest after you take them off the grill.

“By ensuring that we cook to the correct temperature, we make sure the product’s safe, and we also make sure we don’t overcook it and make it dry and tough,” he said.

Once cooked, Williams said the food should normally be refrigerated within two hours — but that goes down to one hour when it’s over 90 degrees out.

Other measures to keep you and your guests safe include starting with clean utensils and keeping foods separated while cooking.

Though most people make a solid effort when it comes to food safety, Williams said, “There are things in the details many people miss.”

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