FSS Scientific Advisor, Dr Laura Evans, shares her top tips and insight into how to have a safe barbecue this summer.
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, making a barbecue memorable for the right reasons:
1. 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 it should reach 75°C or above if 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.
2. 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.
3. Pre-cook meats in the kitchen first
Pre-cooking food in the oven first is a great way to have more control over cooking, then you can finish it off on the barbecue to get that nice chargrilled flavour.
4. Keep raw food in the fridge until you need it
A key thing is keeping raw food chilled until it’s needed. It’s really 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 summer’s day!
5. Rotate meat on your barbecue
I often remember eating chargrilled chicken drumsticks (i.e. burnt ones!) dad had cooked on the BBQ – if you keep food rotating food you can avoid his mistake and ensure that food is cooked evenly with no raw bits.
6. Throw away used marinades
I like to use a marinade to add flavour and tenderise meat. While the sauce might look yummy, it can’t be eaten after being on raw meat (without being cooked first) so don’t be tempted to re-use meat marinades for something like a salad dressing or on other ready-to-eat food.
7. 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 give the coals time to glow red with a powdery grey surface rather than bursting with flames. Flames will burn your food rather than cook it through (remember my dad and the burnt chicken drumsticks!), so it’s important to allow the barbecue enough time to heat up properly, even if you’re trying to cook everything before the rain comes on!