Tips for the Ultimate Labor Day Barbecue

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Select has limited marbling and is often less tender than choice and prime grades. You are most likely to find this at your local store, unless you seek out the higher choice.

Now, if that wasn't confusing enough, there are other certifications you can find on the meat. The most common is Certified Angus Beef.

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Angus is a breed of cow and 30,000 farmers and ranchers have teamed up to give their cows a brand: Certified Angus Beef. The USDA adds 10 more specifications to its review of meat to see if it meets the Certified Angus standards. Those include tenderness, appealing appearance and uniform and consistent size.

Popovic said that by purchasing meat certified by his association customers know they are getting a consistent, high-quality product.

When shopping, you should buy meat and poultry last, right before checkout, according to the USDA. Separate raw meat and poultry from other food in your shopping cart. To guard against cross-contamination -- which can happen when raw meat or poultry juices drip on other food -- put packages of raw meat and poultry into plastic bags.

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Make the grocery store the last stop before heading home so that the perishable food can be taken quickly to your refrigerator.

Completely thaw meat and poultry before grilling so it cooks more evenly, the USDA says. Use the refrigerator for slow, safe thawing or thaw sealed packages in cold water. You can use the microwave to defrost food only if it will be placed immediately on the grill, but you might lose out on taste that way.

Labor Day Grilling Tips

All right, enough preparation. Now it's time to grill.

With burgers, you don't want to mess around. Cook your meat thoroughly.

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"I'm all about eating a rare steak or a steak tartar," Popovic said. But not for burgers. "It's a food safety issue. You want to be safe rather than sorry."

The best way to tell when your food is done is to pick up an instant-read thermometer (they cost anywhere from $2 to $20). When the burger reaches 160 degrees, it's done.

"What chefs do is look at the juices as it is cooking. When they start to come out clear, that's an indication that it's medium well, or well done," Popovic said.

Try not to move the burgers around too often. Be patient. It's tempting to want to hurry them along, but resist the urge to poke them or smash them down -- that will allow the juices to escape.

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Finally, don't be afraid to experiment with your burger. Consider a twist on the American classic. Try one of these combinations:

Roasted red peppers and soppressata

Blue cheese and cooked bacon

Grilled portabella mushrooms and gouda cheese

Mozzarella, marinara sauce and fresh basil

Feta cheese and olive tapenade

Manchego cheese and jalapenos

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Prosciutto and arugula

Grilled pineapple and hot pepper jam

Caramelized onions, spinach and brie cheese

Salsa and pepper jack cheese

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