Food safety at barbecues

Master the Grill: 7 Powerful Food Safety Tips for an Unforgettable Barbecue

Perhaps it’s because we have so little of it, but as soon as the sun shows its face you’ll find we Brits donning our shorts and dusting off the barbecue.

According to an article in the Manchester Evening News, almost one-fifth of Britons (18%) have suffered from food poisoning following a barbecue. With the potential for salmonella, campylobacter, E. coli and listeria to breed, make sure that your barbecue party is memorable for all the right reasons.

Where does barbecuing originate?

The cooking of raw meat over fires has been practised for thousands of years. However the word ‘barbecue’ is thought to have originated in the Caribbean. The Taino people referred to their method of cooking meat over an open flame as ‘barbacoa.’ What started out as an ancient ritual has now become an integral part of summer gatherings.

Barbecue safely this summer

There are different types of barbecue available – from inexpensive basic versions to gas barbecues costing thousands of pounds. Whichever type you have, the fundamentals of food safety still apply.

Tip 1 – Clean the barbecue grill thoroughly

This might seem obvious, but if your barbecue hasn’t seen the light of day for a few months it could have attracted dust and rust. There may even be the remnants of grease and food particles which can harbour bacteria. Preheating the grill before adding new food also helps to kill bacteria and makes sure the food is cooked evenly.

Tip 2 – Safe Marinating

The smoky, chargrilled taste of barbecued meat, fish and plant-based alternatives is great, but the taste sensation can be enhanced by marinating first. The longer you marinate, the more intense the flavour. It’s essential to put the bowl of marinating meat, fish etc. in the fridge – don’t leave it out at room temperature. Also, just as you should never double-dip at a buffet, never re-use marinades that have come into contact with raw meat as they can introduce harmful bacteria.

Tip 3 – Don’t forget to wash your hands

Just because you’re outside, don’t forget the basics – wash your hands before handling any food.

Tip 4 – Barbecue food preparation and storage

When you’re preparing raw meat, raw fish or seafood and vegetables, there’s a high risk of cross-contamination. To combat this you should use separate chopping boards and utensils. Once the food is prepared, cover it and place in the fridge. Take care to ensure that the raw items are kept away from any ready-to-eat food.

Tip 5 – Cook the food thoroughly

Popular barbecue foods such as burgers and sausages are made from ground meat. This means that there is a much higher risk of bacterial infection. It’s therefore imperative that they are cooked all the way through. Always check the inside of the item to make sure it’s not pink – even if it’s charred on the outside. Likewise chicken and full cuts of beef, pork or lamb should be cooked all the way through.

You can use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the food you are cooking. Burgers and similar items should have a core temperature of 71°C.  Chicken should be cooked to 74°C and beef, lamb and other full cuts of meat must reach at least 63°C. Allowing meat to rest for a couple of minutes before serving also lets it continue cooking.

Tip 6 – Let’s barbecue – NOT flambé

Barbecued food should be cooked evenly, so if your grill is looking more like a bonfire it means there is fat dripping onto the flames. To avoid any flare-ups make sure you trim as much fat as possible from meat or buy leaner cuts. Also, keep a spray bottle of water close by to dampen down any flames.

Tip 7 – The 4 hour buffet rule also applies

We have written about this in previous blog posts, but please remember that food such as salad, mayonnaise, coleslaw, dips, butter etc. should not be left out longer than 4 hours. That also applies to any cooked food from the barbecue.

If you follow the tips above you should ensure that any food you prepare cook and serve will be safe to eat. Here’s to several days of sun this year!

If you want more info on food safety training, check out our food safety courses here – available as both open and in-house training.

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