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For those who haven’t gotten an early start, let the grilling begin! On one hand, according to nationaldaycalendar.com, we’re getting toward the end of National Barbecue Month, which is May. On the other hand, Memorial Day weekend is said to be the unofficial start of summer and there are bound to be plenty of chances to get outside and fire up the grill.

Why has cooking on the grill become so closely linked to Memorial Day weekend, Fourth of July and other celebrations? For Catherine Johnston, Pavilion Central School family and consumer science teacher, it’s partly the extra time off we generally have.

“Though Memorial Day is set aside to remember ancestors and veterans, most Americans seem to equate the day to the first parade, barbecues and the first ‘three-day weekend’ of summer,” she said. “I think many families would spend the day at the cemetery, planting flowers and having picnic lunches while the family cleared the family plot. Over time, as we are no longer going together as a family unit and paying our respects and sharing the family stories of this uncle or aunt, instead we are having a large picnic with our family members or friends.”

“I asked some of my students what they would be having … it seemed to vary depending on their family dynamics — for most, hamburgers and hot dogs (cheapest) Some have a pig roast, some smoke their meat …” she said. “For me it’s all about the side dishes … deviled eggs or purple pickled eggs … potato salad or mac salad … mayo or Miracle Whip … watermelon slices.”

Asked what foods people seem to be grilling more and why, she said. “Families are trying to grill healthier or they have vegetarians in the family — a vegetable pizza or adding a grill Wok to create a vegetable dish. The toppings for burgers are avocado slices and fancier sauces like Chipolte.

“Funny you should ask….I think it is still a guy thing, even with the television shows ‘The Grill Dads’ and ‘Eat Sleep BBQ’ … both shows, on the Food Network, are all men” she said. “‘Diners, Drive-ins and Dives’ is also a male-dominated show.”

“Once we start doing the chicken barbecue this weekend, it’ll be every Saturday through Labor Day weekend. Sometimes on super cruises or big nights, we’ll do chicken barbecue too, depending on the day,” Stosser said. “We do have other options for grilling, pulled pork. Outside when we do chicken barbecue we offer brisket. We have a normal Cruise Night every Thursday, but every third Thursday is Super Cruise Night.”

Things have been cooking all year at Hidden Valley Animal Adventure’s Trailside Grill, so Memorial Day weekend is just a continuation of the grilling and barbecuing. According to the Trailside Grill link at Hidden Valley’s website ( hiddenvalleyadventure.com), the menu includes black angus burgers, chicken wings, steaks, pasta and more and newer favorites such as bison burgers and wild game melts. “Our game burgers — we do bison, water buffalo and elk. Those are our signature (dishes),” Executive Chef Paul Szymanski said. “Our game burgers are popular. We do steaks, homestyle dinners. We’ve got our barbecued ribs we do all summer. Hidden Valley Marketing Director Michael Powers said, “The grill is in the restaurant’s name, but it’s only a small part of what they do. If folks come to Hidden Valley, every palate can find something all year long.

”Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Stir to circulate heat and cooling,” she said. “Just because you have it on ice doesn’t mean the food is above or below the danger zone of 40-140 degrees. Marinate the food in the refrigerator. Never reuse the marinate. Once the raw meat has been in the marinate … it needs to be boiled to kill possible bacteria. Better to save some unused marinate for dipping.”

“This includes the platter you take the raw meat to the grill. Have a second platter for the cooked meat. This prevents cross-contamination,” she said. “Thoroughly cook the meat by using a thermometer. Don’t know the temperature go to www.foodsafety.gov for the correct temps. Wash your hands often. Invite friends and family to your picnic not food-borne illness.”

“I preach this pretty regular when I go on the radio. We’re very proactive in ensuring that people are able to enjoy outdoor cooking responsibly,” he said. “We just want people to be responsible while they’re doing that. We definitely encourage it – we offer tips to help people.”

“In case there’s an ignition failure, we won’t have an explosion of pooling gas,” he said. “If if ignites all that gas, it could blow the lid right off of that grill. We want to make sure that the grill is clean and free from the buildup of grease and fat than can occur. Keep the grill clean before and after you use it.”

“We want to make sure there’s at least a 6-foot diameter around the grill that is free of children, toys and pets. That’s what’s considered a generally accepted best practice,” Napolitano said. “We’re trying to keep people safe as you’re cooking.”

“At this time of the year, we see a marked increase in calls for service regarding outdoor cooking appliances,” Napolitano said. “We invite our citizens to contact the Fire Department, we’ll come out and inspect your location and make recommendations for a safe area to grill. Myself and my staff will come out and educate the homeowner … and answer any questions they may have. Call us before something happens. We want to answer your questions and avoid a catastrophic situation.”