As outdoor temperatures rise, so does the use of grills. Whenever you’re grilling—outdoors or inside—it’s critical to cook meat to the proper temperature. “It’s important for food to be cooked to a minimum internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria,” said Tony Banks, a Virginia Farm Bureau Federation commodity marketing specialist. “Meat and poultry cooked on a grill may appear cooked before the minimum internal temperature has been met, so it is important to arm yourself with a reliable meat thermometer.” All along the food chain, farmers, meat processors and retailers take multiple steps to help ensure meat products are safe. Consumers also can take steps to prevent foodborne illnesses. “Proper cooking is the last step for consumers to take to ensure that any pathogens that might be present are killed,” Banks added. Safe minimum internal temperatures are 165 degrees for all poultry; 160 degrees for ground meat; and 145 degrees for chops, roasts and steaks of beef, lamb, pork and veal. Let the meat rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming it. During the rest time, the meat’s temperature will remain constant or continue to rise. Any cooked, uncured red meats—including pork—can be pink even when the meat has reached a safe internal temperature. “The color of the meat is not a good indicator of safety; the meat thermometer is key,” Banks reiterated. After grilling meat and poultry, it’s important to keep it at 140 degrees or warmer until it’s served. Keep cooked meats hot by setting them on an upper grill rack, in an oven set at approximately 200 degrees, in a chafing dish or slow cooker, or on a warming tray. Never use the same platters and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry. Harmful bacteria in raw meat and its juices can contaminate safely cooked food. If outside temperatures are above 90 degrees, food should never sit out for more than an hour. Detailed food safety information is available at vdacs.virginia.gov/food-food-safety.shtml. A chart of safe minimum cooking temperatures for many foods is available at foodsafety.gov. Media: Contact Banks at 804-290-1114.