Biggest barbecue of the year just hours away – don’t make your family and friends sick | Education

On the biggest barbecue day of the year, the fireworks in the sky will be matched by those produced when food meets fire and smoke on the grill.

A 2017 survey by the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association found July 4th to be the biggest grilling day of the year, followed by Memorial Day and Labor Day. The survey also found that 72% of consumers who responded to its survey said flavor was the reason they used a grill.

Jeyam Subbiah, Ph.D., head of the food science department of the agriculture systems division at the University of Arkansas and the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences, said the high temperatures of the roasting cause a unique chemical reaction when the meat hits the metal.

There are several things going on at the same time. In a process called caramelization, heat breaks down carbohydrates into sugar, browning them, and developing distinct flavors.

At the same time, the heat does wonderful things for the protein.

“Meat contains a lot of protein and protein is made up of amino acids,” Subbiah said. Heat breaks down proteins into their constituent amino acids.

When the caramelized sugars meet the released amino acids, the magic happens.

“At around 300 degrees Fahrenheit, at a very high temperature, the amino acids react with the sugars and create a Maillard browning,” Subbiah said. The Maillard reaction, named after French chemist Louis Maillard, is what gives grilled meats good taste.

“Slow cooking and stewing doesn’t really help,” he said. Watering food also lowers the temperature and slows or may prevent the Maillard reaction.

There is another reaction that makes the grill sizzle.

“When certain juices fall into the flame, they vaporize and rise and mix with what’s going on the grill and create rich compounds… which create complex flavor and aromas,” he said.

The smoke produced by grilling over charcoal or wood has its own magic. The high temperature decomposition of cellulose and lignins in wood produces phenols and carbonyl compounds which impart smoked and sweet aromas to smoked foods.


Subbiah came up with an action checklist to make sure the grill party doesn’t go badly.

1. Defrost meats in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Thawing at room temperature promotes the growth of pathogens.

2. Don’t wash your meat. “When you try to wash it, it will splash and you will spread coli and salmonella on your counter and kitchen,” Subbiah said. Washing meat causes more cross-contamination. “Plus you lose the juice from the meat. “

3. Avoid cross-contamination by separating utensils and dishes used for raw meat from those used for cooked meat. Cooking kills both pathogens that cause disease and bacteria that cause food to spoil. “If the raw meat touches the cooked meat, you inoculate the cooked meat with the bad bugs,” he said. “Without spoilage microbial competition, pathogens can grow faster. “

4. Use a thermometer. “You can’t look at a piece of meat on the grill and know if it has been cooked to a safe temperature,” Subbiah said. Ground meat should be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Poultry should go to 165 and whole cuts of beef, pork, and lamb should be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

5. “All leftovers, if not consumed within two hours, should be refrigerated immediately,” he said. “No more than two hours and it’s dangerous.


Subbiah said consumers should carefully consider meat intended for the grill.

“It is the most delicate thing,” he said. “The inside of the meat is sterile. If the meat is intact, you can heat the sides of the meat and kill the bugs.

However, some cuts of meat have been mechanically tenderized through the use of needles which break up the tough fibers. Other meats are made softer or juicier through injections of marinades or salt water solutions. Both are inexpensive ways to “improve” lower quality cuts of meat. The tenderizing needles and the injection needles both pick up contaminants from the surface of the meat and transport them inside the cut of meat.

This means the meats are not sterile, Subbiah said. “Cooks well. I wouldn’t go lower than average with a steak.

Information in this article was also provided by Jennifer Acuff, Assistant Professor of Food Safety and Microbiology, for the Division of Agriculture and Bumpers College.

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