With many of us meeting up with friends and family this summer, FSS Scientific Advisor, Dr Laura Evans, shares her top tips and insight into how to have a safe barbecue.
I love a barbecue. The smell is amazing and brings back so many happy memories - family birthdays, celebrations, and warm summer days. Although most of us won’t be going abroad, we look forward to creating wonderful summer memories and enjoying barbecues outdoors with loved ones when the Scottish weather lets us!
There are a lot of things to remember when hosting a barbecue, especially if you are cooking for older relatives and young children. It is really important to avoid making anyone unwell with food that isn’t cooked properly.
Following these tips will help you to cook safely, ensuring your barbecue is memorable for the right reasons:
Use a food thermometer
By far the easiest 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. If you don’t have a food thermometer, cut into the meat to check it is steaming hot, there is no pink meat and the juices run clear.
Raw and cooked meats need to be kept separate
When you’re barbecuing, make sure you use different dishes for raw and cooked food. This helps avoid cross contamination. It’s also important to use separate utensils - one for raw food and one for cooked food.
Pre-cook meats in the kitchen first
Pre-cooking food in the oven first is a great way to have more control. Once cooked, simply pop it on the barbecue to finish it off and get that nice, chargrilled flavour.
Keep raw food in the fridge until you need it
A key thing is keeping raw food chilled until it’s needed. It’s all too easy to take food out then forget about it, but it’s important not to leave food out where it can get warm - especially on a hot summer’s day when bacteria can grow quicker!
Rotate meat on your barbecue
I have memories from childhood of eating chargrilled chicken drumsticks (in other word burnt ones!) that dad had cooked on the barbecue. If you keep rotating food you can avoid making his mistake and ensure that it is cooked evenly - with no raw bits.
Treat contaminated marinades with caution
I like to use marinades to add flavour and tenderise meat before cooking. While the sauce might look yummy, it can’t be eaten after being in raw meat without being cooked first. This is because the marinade will be contaminated by the raw meat. So don’t be tempted to re-use raw meat marinades for salad dressing or on other ready-to-eat food.
If you’re cooking on charcoal, make sure it has reached the right temperature
For the purists out there, charcoal is the only way to do a barbecue - but it is important to light it properly. Give the coals time to glow red with a powdery grey surface before cooking, rather than when they are bursting with flames. Flames will burn your food rather than cook it through (remember my dad and the burnt chicken drumsticks!), so you must allow the barbecue enough time to heat up properly - even if you’re trying to cook everything before the rain comes on!
Let’s hope for some more great weather so we can cook on our barbecues and create some more happy memories!