How to keep that outdoor get-together from ending at the ER

It’s hard to believe Memorial Day is just around the corner!

And before you start your holiday festivities, I hope that you take some time to remember those who made the greatest sacrifice of all for our freedoms.

I also hope that before you and your friends and family gather at the beach, pool, or even your own backyard oasis, that you keep in mind a few extra precautions.

Because nothing ruins a holiday faster than searching for the nearest urgent care facility or ER!

‘The Danger Zone’

While we all know about the dangers of not cooking meat and chicken enough, this grilling hazard is probably one you don’t think about much, if at all.

I’m talking about that wire brush you use to clean your grill with. Even if it’s new, or looks to be in great shape, doctors are saying to please toss it out and use other cleaning methods.

Thin, and super-sharp wires can easily come off and then become hidden in your burger, chicken or steak. And before you realize it, they can become lodged in your tongue or go down the hatch or even make their way to your intestines.

And when that happens, removing them is not an easy job.

Surgeon Dr. Ian Dempsey calls finding the tiny wire barbs like a “needle in a haystack, but the haystack is your tongue.”

So, if you’ve been using a wire brush to clean your grill, experts advise to go over it with a damp cloth and inspect it carefully before you fire it up again. Then toss that wire brush and try some alternate methods such as balled-up aluminum foil (held between long tongs so you don’t burn yourself!), wooden paddle cleaners and brushes made with nylon bristles.

And before you even head out to the grill, there are two simple things you can do to reduce the amount of cancer-causing compounds that can form on grilled meat. These chemicals, called HCAs and PAHs, form in two ways. One is from the smoke created when fat drips onto the charcoal or flame, and the other comes when animal protein is exposed to high heat.

Here are two easy ways to lower that risk:

  1. Using herbs and marinades to coat the meat, which can reduce the creation of these risky compounds by well over 90 percent. Spices such as rosemary, thyme, and pepper are said to be especially good for this purpose. And who doesn’t love a great steak marinade? By making your grilled dishes taste better, you’re actually making them safer!
  2. Another great way to cut down on the by-products formed on meat is to precook things halfway under a lower temp in the oven or in a pan. This not only makes your food safer but allows it to grill up faster when you have hungry guests waiting.

But even if you’re simply packing a picnic for the gang and heading off to the beach or park, food safety is largely a matter of ‘degree.” So remember:

  • Watch out for what the USDA calls the “Danger Zone.” That is, food kept at a temp between 40 and 140 degrees. That’s when bacteria counts can double in a mere 20 minutes.
  • When the potato salad, coleslaw and other perishable items hit the picnic table and it’s above 90 degrees outside, they should be eaten within an hour – and within two hours if it’s below 90.
  • If you’re going to be grilling “on location” make sure to keep raw meat and poultry away from ready-to-eat foods.

Above all, make sure to keep cold food cold and hot dishes hot! Because there’s no such temp as “tepid” when it comes to storing and serving food.

“This common grilling tool could send you to the emergency room” Fox News,