The recent streak of warm weather had Seattleites breaking out their grills a little early this year. With Memorial Day just around the corner and the grilling season taking off, it is important to take a few precautions to keep everyone healthy and safe. No one wants food-borne illness to ruin a get-together.

Keeping it clean, safe

First, keep your grilling tools in good order and clean. Think twice about that metal bristle brush you use to clean off your grill. These brushes can leave coarse bristles behind on the grill, which can then be picked up by the food you cook. If ingested, the metal bristles have the potential to cause serious harm in your intestine. Always double-check that your grill is clean and bristle-free.

Second, it’s important to know how to safely handle and prepare meat to avoid illness. Thawing frozen meat should be done in the fridge, not on the counter or in the sink. Leaving food out to thaw to room temperature can cause food-borne illness. This includes foods that are marinating; these, too, should be kept in the fridge.

After raw meat has finished marinating, throw out the marinade sauce. Don’t use it for basting foods while cooking. Why? Because you are cross-contaminating cooked meats with fluids that once had raw meat in them, and this could lead to food-borne illnesses. Instead, keep some fresh marinade separate from the meat to use only for basting.

The dish and utensil you use to carry the raw meat and transfer it to the grill need to be washed with soap before using again. This helps you avoid contaminating the cooking meat with juices from the raw meat.

In addition, be sure to wash your hands with soap between tasks. Bacteria from raw foods can easily transfer from your skin to other food or surfaces. If you are at Golden Gardens Park or another of our public facilities, bring moist toilettes or hand sanitizer in case soap and water are not readily available.

Third, be sure to cook meats to safe temperatures to ensure that any potentially harmful bacteria are killed. Guessing when your meat is done is not good enough. The safest way to determine if your meat is thoroughly cooked is to check for the proper temperatures with a thermometer. Check at the meat’s thickest part, being sure the thermometer isn’t touching the bone.

From www.foodsafety.gov:

•Poultry: 165 degrees F

•Ground meats: 160 degrees F

•Beef, pork, lamb or veal: 145 degrees F, rest 3 minutes

•Fish: 145 degrees F or until flesh is opaque and flakes apart easily

•Shrimp: cook until flesh is opaque

When you are done grilling for the day, be sure to clean the grill and all of your utensils.

Refrigerate leftovers immediately so nothing sits out too long.

Don’t forget the veggies

Now that you’ve got all the food safety skills down, get grilling! Grilling sometimes can be all about the meat, but don’t forget that veggies cook excellently on the grill, too.

If you like cauliflower, then you’ll love this recipe (above). Large slices of fresh cauliflower are brushed in a lemony marinade and then grilled to perfection. Top them with a little Parmesan cheese and they’ll be the hit of the party!

Here’s to safe and happy grilling this season!

KRISTAL LOWE is a registered dietitian at Pacific Medical Centers (www.PacMed.org). To comment on this column, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com.