Summer grilling – don’t char the meat!

Three concepts to keep in mind when cooking meat.

With summer finally peeking its head around the corner, many of us are firing up our grills to cook food outside while enjoy the fabulous weather. Sometimes people shy away from grilling meat, poultry and fish due to fear of carcinogen (cancerous) exposure. Recent research suggests that eating a moderate amount of grilled meats does not pose a serious issue as long as it is done in a safe manner.

Buying the meat. Look for the leanest cuts of meat with the least amount of marbling. Meats with less marbling will reduce the fat content and therefore be the healthier, leaner choice compared to those with a lot of marbling/fat. Less fat also creates an easier cooking method and reduces the risk for charring.

Preparing the meat. Cutting excess fat from the meat can help prevent charring and also reduce flare-ups from the flame from occurring. This reduces the risk of cooking meats too harshly on the outside, while not enough on the inside.

Grilling the meat. Internal cooking temperatures for meats, fish and poultry are extremely important when cooking on the grill (and with any other method of cooking). High heat cooking methods (including grilling) often brown the outside of foods very quickly without the inside reaching proper internal temperature for safety. However, using an instant read or digital thermometer is a simple way to make sure the internal temperatures have reached appropriate temperatures before taking the foods off of the grill and consuming. Never assume that cooking is complete, until you have checked the internal temperatures of all meats, fish and poultry with a food thermometer. Refer to the chart below for appropriate minimum internal temperatures from the United States Department of Agriculture; Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Food Item

Minimum Internal Temperature (°F)

Beef, pork, veal, lamb, steaks, chops, roasts

145 degrees Fahrenheit

Ground meats

160 degrees Fahrenheit

Ham (fresh or smoked)

145 degrees Fahrenheit

All poultry

165 degrees Fahrenheit

Fish and shellfish

145 degrees Fahrenheit

Always make sure that your food thermometer is working properly before use. Read Can I Trust My Meat Thermometer from Michigan State University Extension for more information.

MSU Extension offers nutrition education classes for adults and youth that include information on healthy grilling options consumers can make. More information can be found at

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