Barbecue food safety
If you’re having a BBQ with friends and family this summer, it’s important to think about food safety.
Cooking outside with warmer temperatures and poor hygiene can all lead to food poisoning. You should always remember to cater for those with a food allergy too.
Following these tips will help you to cook safely, making sure your barbecue is memorable for the right reasons.
Cleaning your BBQ
It might be a while since you’ve used your BBQ so make sure you thoroughly clean it to remove grease and dirt. Even if you have used it recently, it’s best practice to clean the BBQ before every use and don’t forget about your utensils. Cleaning these also helps to stop harmful bacteria from spreading onto food.
Avoiding food poisoning at your barbecue
Nasty bugs in raw meats, like Campylobacter in chicken, can cause food poisoning, which is often unpleasant and can be serious.
Following the “4Cs” of food hygiene, cleaning, chilling, cooking and avoiding cross-contamination will help you prepare, make and store food safely
Some top tips to minimise the risk of food poisoning at your BBQ are:
- Making sure any frozen food is completely thawed before you cook it.
- Checking the use-by dates on food packaging. Eating food past its use-by date can make you unwell.
- Keeping raw meat separate from other foods to avoid cross contamination. You can use sealed containers to help separate raw and cooked food.
- Using different plates, chopping boards and utensils for raw and cooked meat.
- Not using a sauce or marinade for cooked food that’s had raw meat in it.
Cooking food on a barbecue safely
During barbecue season, the temptation can be to cook everything quickly before the rain comes on. It’s important to cook food for the correct length of time and at the right temperature. You can do this by:
- Waiting for the charcoal to glow red with a powdery grey surface to start cooking. Flames will blacken the outside of food but leave the middle raw.
- Rotating food on the BBQ so it cooks evenly.
- Checking the centre of the food to make sure it is cooked before serving - steam should be coming out of it.
- Making sure chicken, pork, burgers, sausages and kebabs are cooked all the way through. They should be steaming hot, there should be no pink meat and the juices should run clear. Meat isn’t necessarily cooked inside just because it looks charred on the outside.
- By far the best thing you can do to make sure food is cooked properly is to use a food thermometer. Insert it into the thickest part of the meat and when it reaches 75°C or above it is fully cooked. Pre-cooking food in the oven, pan or grill first is a great way to have more control, then finish it off on the barbecue for that chargrilled flavour.
Cooking for someone with an allergy
Even a tiny trace of an allergen can be enough to cause an allergic reaction. Food allergens can’t be removed by cooking, so it is important that they’re managed carefully.
Ask guests about any allergies they may have. Clean surfaces thoroughly and follow advice for avoiding cross-contact in or outside the kitchen. Read more about cooking for people with allergies.
Serving food safely
Simple steps can make sure you serve food safely once you’re ready to eat.
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water before eating and always after handling raw meat/poultry.
- Keep hot food hot and cold food cold until you are ready to eat. Any foods which you would usually keep in the fridge at home also need to be kept cool at your BBQ. You can use a cool box or bag with ice, frozen gel packs or frozen drinks distributed evenly throughout to help keep your food cold.
- Keep anything ready to eat, like salad, away from raw meat to avoid spreading any harmful bacteria to foods that won’t be cooked.
Looking after leftovers
It’s a common problem – you’ve prepared too much food! When you have leftover food, there are a few things to remember to keep it safe to eat another day:
- Put leftover food in the fridge as soon as possible as this helps to stop or slow down bacterial growth. Hot food needs to cool down first before storing in the fridge
- Eat leftovers within two days – any longer gives time for any harmful bacteria to grow and multiply.
- Only reheat leftovers once and make sure steaming hot all the way through before eating.
- Freezing is also a great way of keeping leftovers and reducing food waste.
Find out more about storing food safely.