Cooking Outdoors with Your Kids

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Grilling tips

Never leave a child alone with a hot grill. This is the cardinal rule of grilling alongside your children. A grill is like a combination of a hot stove and a campfire. Real tragedy can occur in a matter of seconds. Even if you can see your children from inside your home and the grill is on, stay outside with the children.

Model safe grilling behavior. Kids are sponges, learning about the world around them by absorbing what they observe. If you’re reaching onto a hot grill without using proper tools, or applying aerosol pan spray to a hot grill, kids see this and think these kind of actions are safe.

Create a list of tasks children can help with—putting items into foil packages, making skewers, making side dishes. This way, you avoid having the kids get bored and take your attention away from grilling safely.

Make sure your grill is hot before you start grilling. This is the equivalent of pre-heating your oven. While the grill is heating, take the kids with you as you gather your grilling supplies.Use the proper tools. Grilling tools aren’t simply more rustic-looking versions of indoor tools. They have longer handles, so that you can reach food at the far end of the grill without placing your arms over the grill itself. Grilling tools are also a bit thicker so they can safely pick up larger, heavier pieces of food. Invest in a good set of grill tools so that you can grill safely.

Gather everything you need and bring it out to the grill before you put the food on. This way, you don’t have to leave the hot grill unattended while you go inside to grab food or equipment.

Here are some essentials to have before you start cooking:Tools—brushes, tongs, grill cleaning supplies, basters, extra foil.Food—make a menu of what you’ll be serving and list all the ingredients you need for grilling. Are you grilling chicken and putting barbeque sauce on to finish? Bring out the chicken and the barbeque sauce. Clean and prep any items inside—cut veggies you’re grilling, remove meat from packaging and pat it dry. A cooler with ice if you’re cooking more food than can fit on the grill at once. This keeps food safe.

Hand sanitizer and wipes for keeping hands clean at the grill. This way, you don’t have to dash in to wash your hands. It also helps to have a few sets of grilling tongs—some for raw foods going onto the grill and some for cooked foods coming off the grill.

Clean platters and containers for food once it’s been cooked. Don’t use the plate you used for raw ingredients for the cooked ingredients. A roll of foil to make a tent for hot foods coming off the grill.A timer—this can either be a kitchen timer, or on your phone or watch. You’ll want to know how long to cook foods, and to time them. This way, you don’t have to step back into your kitchen to see how long food has been grilling.

Dirty dish bus pan. When you have dishes that have had raw meat or fish on them, they are not suitable for cooked foods. Put them in a large container for transporting into the house once you’re done cooking.

Thermometer—so you can measure the internal heat of meats and ensure they’re completely cooked. Go to 140 for poultry, 155 for sausage and anywhere between 125-155 for red meats.

Sunscreen and bug spray. It’s easy to concentrate on what you need for cooking, but you’ll also want to plan for being outdoors.

Diversions for when children don’t want to continue to help any longer. Bring out toys and -games that can be used right by the grill, so the kids can be occupied when you are cooking.

Wash your hands and have the kids wash their hands before handling food. Use hot, soapy water and wash for about 20 seconds. What’s 20 seconds? It’s about as long as it takes to sing the alphabet. Turn hand-washing into a fun game by singing while you scrub.

Start with a clean grill. Once the grill is hot, use a wire brush to scrape any bits of food from the grate. These are what leave flecks on your food, but can also harbor bacteria.

Oil your hot grill. Take an old kitchen towel and roll it tightly. Dip it into vegetable oil and hold it with long tongs. Wipe the towel across the hot grill to oil the surface. NEVER USE PAN SPRAY!

Keep hot foods hot, and cold foods cold. Food held in the “temperature danger zone” – between 41 degrees F and 135 degrees F – are at a higher risk for foodborne illness. Keep a cooler part of your grill as a “warming tray” and tent hot food with foil. Keep cold food on ice in a cooler.

Kid-Friendly Recipes

Potatoes in Foil

Serves 4

4 russet or Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and sliced into ¼-inch slices

1 small yellow or white onion, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced into ¼-inch slices

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper


Aluminum foil


Place a 12-inch by 24-inch piece of foil on a clean work surface.  Spread potatoes across the middle 1/3 of the foil. Spread onions evenly over potatoes, sprinkle with oil, salt and pepper. Bring in sides of foil and crimp to create an airtight packet. Grill 45 minutes over medium heat.

Smoked Sausage Kebabs

Serves 4


1 lb. smoked turkey or lowfat pork sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 green pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 pint cherry tomatoes

1 pint pineapple chunks

1 Tablespoon soy sauce

1 Tablespoon apricot jam


Metal skewers or wooden skewers, soaked 30 minutes in warm water


Thread skewers with a piece of sausage, followed by the pepper, onion, tomato and pineapple. Repeat with remaining skewers. (If you have long skewers, you may want to repeat the pattern on each skewer.

Mix together soy sauce and jam.

Grill skewers over medium heat for 5 minutes. Rotate ¼ turn and grill additional 4 minutes. Rotate ¼ turn and grill an additional 4 minutes. Rotate ¼ turn, brush with jam mixture and grill until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.

Remove food from skewers before eating.

Banana Boats

Serves 4


4 ripe bananas 24 mini marshmallows

½ cup bittersweet chocolate chips


Aluminum foil


Measure out 4 12-inch by 12-inch pieces of foil and lay out on a clean work surface.

Bend back the stem of one banana, and peel a single 1/2-inch wide strip to the bottom. Place onto a sheet of foil and top exposed banana with 6 marshmallows and 2 Tablespoons chocolate chips. Place banana strip over marshmallows and chips, and wrap banana tightly in foil. Repeat with remaining bananas.

Grill 5-7 minutes over medium heat, until marshmallows and chocolate chips are melted. Let rest 2 minutes, unwrap and serve.



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