Whatever the weather, the allure of summer dining alfresco is very appealing. And while eating outdoors can be a real pleasure, far too often the good habits we follow in the kitchen go up in smoke when the barbecue is lit.
When planning a barbecue this summer, bear in mind these simple rules so your friends, family and neighbours go home with memories of a good time - and not a bug to remember you by!
6 golden rules for a safe barbecue
Burgers, sausages and kebabs, and poultry must be cooked all the way through - but steaks or whole meat joints can be served 'rare' as harmful bacteria are on the outside only, and not in the centre.
If you like to marinate your meat, make sure any marinade used on raw meat is not then used to coat vegetables or cooked meat.
If you choose to barbecue any frozen food, it must be completely thawed on the bottom shelf of your fridge before you cook it.
When handling raw meat and poultry, wash your hands thoroughly and frequently, especially if preparing salads at the same time.
Once your meat is cooked thoroughly, keep it away from raw meat and use separate chopping boards, cooking utensils and plates. Harmful bacteria in raw meat, poultry and their juices can contaminate cooked food and lead to food poisoning.
If there are leftovers from your barbecue, allow the food to cool before refrigerating, however make sure to refrigerate food within two hours of cooking. The golden rule for leftovers is - if in doubt, throw it out.
More tips for a trouble-free barbeque
Clean the grill
Barbecues are great fun for friends, family and neighbours but need some thought and planning for them to be safe for all to enjoy. Before you begin to set up your barbecue this year and consider your menu, give your barbecue grill a thorough clean by scrubbing the metal rack with a damp brush dipped in bicarbonate of soda.
Keeping it cool
When eating outdoors, food is away from your refrigerator for a longer period of time, which can enable germs to multiply rapidly in temperatures above 5 degrees C. With this in mind, keep perishable foods like quiche, salads and coleslaw in your fridge until you need them.
Before you start
Before you start imitating your favourite TV chef, make sure any frozen food is properly thawed (preferably in the fridge) before you start cooking it. Keep your poultry or raw meat in the fridge or cool box until needed and light your barbecue well in advance – the flames should have died down before you start cooking.
It’s in your hands
As with preparing any food, make sure to wash your hands before and after handling food. Remember to keep raw meat separate from cooked meat and ready-to-eat foods like salads and always use separate utensils for handling raw and cooked meat. Never put cooked food on a dish that has been used for raw meat or poultry (unless it’s been thoroughly washed) and keep food covered whenever possible.
The big issue when barbecuing is making sure your food has been cooked thoroughly the whole way through. This is particularly important when cooking minced or skewered meats, such as burgers, sausages and kebabs on the barbecue - while the outside may look cooked, and in some cases slightly burnt, the inside can still be raw. safefood recommends that these meats should be cooked until they are piping hot all the way through, with no pink meat remaining and the juices run clear.
Burgers, sausages and kebabs should be cooked until they are piping hot all the way through, with no pink meat remaining and the juices run clear."
If you want to ensure that meat is thoroughly cooked (and you’ve got lots of people visiting) then it's better to pre-cook the meat in your kitchen just before you put it on the barbecue.
When cooking meat that is minced or skewered such as burgers, sausages and kebabs, and poultry on the barbecue make sure to turn it regularly and move around the grill to ensure it is cooked evenly on both sides - then run the done test:
Is it piping hot all the way through?
Is there no pink meat left?
Do the juices run clear?
So when planning a barbecue this summer, always think food safety and try to plan ahead. You want your friends, family and neighbours going home with memories of a good time, not a bug to remember you by!