Grill’s On! Get Out Of That Kitchen!

Editor’s note:  This is part 1 of a 2-part series. June – it’s the start of summer, Father’s Day, and YES, lots of grilling!  Nothing says summer like grilling your favorite foods on the deck, patio,

Editor’s note:  This is part 1 of a 2-part series.

June – it’s the start of summer, Father’s Day, and YES, lots of grilling!  Nothing says summer like grilling your favorite foods on the deck, patio, or at your favorite park and getting out of that stuffy kitchen. I have worked for years with the University of Tennessee Extension Service.  They are THE experts on family and consumer sciences, along with agriculture, and that expertise includes anything involving foods! I found some great information from the Extension Service that I think you will find handy.

Note: extension agents are located across the country – more than 16,000 of them!  I happen to live in Tennessee so, of course, they are one of my many go-to resources.  Your state probably has one too – check out this link with a map and list of extension programs to see how to reach one near you.

Before we talk about grilling, let’s talk a little about food safety – that should always be a priority!


 Shopping and the Trip Home

Food safety is important when you shop. Follow these simple suggestions to keep your food safe from the grocery store to your home.


  • Make the grocery store your last stop before going home.
  • Shop for your meat, poultry and fish last.
  • Check all packages carefully.
  • Do not buy food in packages that are open, torn or damaged. If the package is sealed, check to see that the seal is not broken.
  • Check the sell-by dates on the labels. As a general rule, meats should be frozen or cooked within 1 to 2 days of the sell-by date.
  • Put your meat, poultry and fish in a separate bag from ready-to-eat foods, such as vegetables, salads and fruits.
  • Choose the coolest place in the car for your groceries. If you are riding the bus, take along a canvas bag or ask the store to double bag your meats and other cold items.
  • Take your groceries home as quickly as possible. In hot weather, take meats home to the refrigerator or freezer within an hour. They should never be at room temperature more than 2 hours.
  • If you cannot get meats home within 1 to 2 hours, take along a cooler with ice or ice packs.


Preparing Food Safely

Once you get your food home, it must be handled safely to prevent food-borne illness.


  • Wash your hands before and after handling the food. Use warm running water and soap. Wash your hands for about 20 seconds.
  • Clean up any spills immediately, especially juices from raw meats. Keep raw meat and its juice from touching other foods, such as fruits, vegetables and cooked meats.
  • Clean anything that comes in contact with food, such as knives, plates and counter-tops, with hot water and soap before and after it touches food– especially raw meats.
  • Marinate meats in the refrigerator. Discard any marinade not used in cooking.
  • Cook foods to the correct internal temperatures. The following chart tells you what temperatures are recommended.


Temperature to Cook Food


145  F Beef, lamb and veal steaks and roasts, medium rare (160 F for medium)
160 F Ground beef, pork, veal and lamb; pork chops, ribs and roasts; egg dishes
165 F Ground turkey and chicken, stuffing and casseroles, leftovers
170 F Chicken and turkey breasts
180 F Chicken and turkey whole bird, legs, thighs, and wings


  • Use a thermometer to check the internal temperature of food.
  • Grill hot dogs until they are steaming hot.
  • Use a clean plate when taking food off the grill.
  • Refrigerate foods within two hours after grilling. In hot weather (90 F or above), refrigerate within one hour. This is also true for salads and other perishable foods.


Choosing Your Grill

Grills can range in price from about $10 to hundreds of dollars. Most charcoal grills are less expensive than gas grills and do a good job. Consider these factors when choosing your grill:


  • How much do you want to cook at a time? This determines the size of the grill you need.
  • How much room do you have for storage? Portable grills are practical and easy to store.
  • Do you prefer the taste of foods cooked over charcoal or gas briquets?
  • How often will you use the grill? If you grill often, look for a sturdy grill that will last a few years.
  • How much do you want to spend? Remember, the grill is not your only cost. You need to consider the cost of charcoal or gas. If you are on a tight budget, check out yard sales or share a grill with a close neighbor.


Grilling Basics

What makes some people great at outdoor grilling? They have learned basic rules for successful grilling.  Try one of the following grilling methods. The best method depends on what type of food you are cooking.


  • Direct cooking method – Place the food on the grate directly over the coals. This method is best for foods that will cook quickly, such as burgers and steaks.
  • Indirect cooking method – Place the food on the grate over a metal or disposable foil drip pan. Bank the coals on either side, or both sides of the pan. Use this method for slow, even cooking for large cuts of meat or whole chickens. You will need to add more briquets to maintain a hot enough temperature.
  • Foil wrap method – Place food on a sheet of foil and add herbs, sauces or a small amount of liquid. Wrap foil around the food and seal the edges. This method works well for tender foods, such as fish and vegetables.
  • Cook fish at a lower temperature than other meats because it drys out quickly.
  • Leave about 3/4 inch between pieces of food to ensure even cooking.
  • To speed cooking, partially cook thicker pieces of meat and vegetables in the microwave before grilling. Do this just before they go on the grill. Meats thawed or partially cooked in a microwave should be cooked immediately.
  • Use tongs to turn solid pieces of meat, such as steaks or poultry. This helps keep juices inside.


How Hot Is Your Temperature?

You can estimate the temperature of your grill by holding your hand, palm side down, about four inches   from the coals. Count how long you can hold your hand over the coals before it is too hot and you have to pull away.


Number of seconds



375 or higher, HOT


350 – 375 F, Medium-hot


300 – 350 F, Medium


200-300 F, Low




Roasted Corn

1 box or 2 to 3 cups of frozen whole kernel corn (no added sauce)

Nonstick cooking spray

Salt (optional)

  1. Spray heavy-duty aluminum foil with nonstick cooking spray. Form a pan with the foil by turning up edges.
  2. Place frozen corn on foil. Sprinkle with salt if desired.
  3. Grill corn until done, about 20 minutes. Shake pan often to prevent sticking.

Another idea: Peel and husk corn on the cob and soak it in cold water for 1 hour. Wrap the corn in aluminum foil and grill for 20 to 30 minutes, turning every few minutes.


Grilled Whole Onion

1 large yellow or white onion per person

Bowl of cold water

1 teaspoon margarine

Optional condiments:

Worcestershire sauce

Hot pepper sauce

Lemon pepper

Chopped parsley

Chopped dill


  1. Soak unpeeled onion in bowl of cold water for 30 minutes to prevent burning. Cover onion with a plate to keep it under water.
  1. Drain and grill on low to medium heat for 20 to 30 minutes, rotating every 10 minutes so that it heats evenly. Insert a fork into onion to test for desired tenderness.
  2. Serve onion whole. Remove skin, add margarine and any desired condiments.

Another idea: Slice onions and add seasonings. Wrap in heavy duty foil and grill for 15 to 20 minutes.


Grilled Chicken Kabobs

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 carton (about 2 cups) cherry tomatoes

1 green bell pepper cut into small squares

1 16-ounce can pineapple chunks

1 cup teriyaki sauce or marinade

1 teaspoon paprika (optional)

1 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)

  1. Mix teriyaki sauce or marinade with spices as desired. Set aside a small amount of marinade for basting later. Place the chicken pieces in the marinade in a glass dish and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 2 hours. Drain chicken and dispose of the marinade.
  2. Place chicken, vegetables and pineapple on long wooden or metal skewers. Alternate chicken with vegetables and pineapple. Leave a space between each piece of chicken and the vegetables or pineapple to allow even cooking.
  3. Place skewers on grill rack and grill, covered with grill lid, over hot coals 5 to 10 minutes on each side. They are done when they reach 170 F. To avoid burning, baste skewers with teriyaki sauce when chicken is nearly done.


Thank you to the University of Tennessee Extension Service for permission to use information from their “Grilling it Safely” publication.  We are grateful!


Feature image from, courtesy of

Cindy Chafin
Cindy Chafin, M.Ed., MCHES® serves as editor-in-chief of Unconditionally Her. Through her many years as a masters-level certified health educator and 18-year employment in a higher education setting – as well as several years as a graduate and doctoral student – she has written countless articles, essays, publications, grant applications, proposals, reports, and other technical and creative writing documents. In addition to her training and professional work experience, she spent four years as volunteer editor of New Focus Daily, a publication of the Women Survivors Alliance, a national women cancer survivors-focused organization based in Nashville, Tennessee.
While serving as editor of Unconditionally Her, a women-focused magazine which provides content on anything from recipes, travel, books, and everything in between, she has a special interest in fitness, health, and well-being. She is certified by the National Commission on Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC) and was part of the first cohort to receive master's level designation. NCHEC certifies health education specialists, promotes professional development, and strengthens professional preparation and practice. She is proud to be a CHES® and has been a public health professional for many years after receiving her graduate degree in health promotion and education from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. She was a personal trainer and group fitness instructor for many years and looks forward to re-engaging with women one-on-one as a health coach pending completion of her certification and doctoral degree to supplement her public health and academic work.

She currently is the Associate Director for Community Programs for the Center for Health and Human Services at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, located just outside of Nashville, where she has been a project director of multiple grants since 2002 and served as interim director from 2015-2018. Cindy offers her consulting services and volunteer hours under the umbrella of Community Health Collaboratives, LLC which she founded in 2002 for organizations such as Unconditionally Her and other non-profit and charity organizations. She is pleased to promote empowerment and confidence of women readers across the globe, and to provide inspiration, motivation, and voice for social change through her role as editor-in-chief of Unconditionally Her.