There’s nothing quite like dining under the warmth of the sun, in the great outdoors. It’s not surprising then, that when the weather is right, many of us jump at the chance to fire up the BBQ at every available opportunity. BBQs can be a great excuse to bring friends and family together, but they can also be fraught with potential health hazards.
Whether it’s ensuring food is cooked thoroughly and at the right temperature, or keeping people at a safe distance from the heat of the grill, it’s important to stay safety-aware so that everyone can relax and enjoy your BBQ without risk of injury.
With an estimated one million reports of food poisoning recorded in the UK each year, it’s clear that many of us still aren’t taking the proper precautions when handling and storing food.
Warm weather can create an ideal breeding ground for bacteria (with the summer months being particularly prevalent for food poisoning) but with some simple, easy-to-follow guidelines, you can help keep all your BBQ guests as safe as possible.
A great way to start is to stick by the rules of the four ‘c’s:
- Always defrost your BBQ food overnight in a fridge, rather than leaving it to defrost at room temperature.
- Allow any leftover cooked foods to cool and then store them in a fridge (within a two-hour window).
- Don’t overfill your fridge – overfilling stops air from circulating properly.
- Regularly check the temperature of your fridge with a thermometer. In-built fridge temperature gauges don’t always give the correct temperature!
- When cooking meat, ensure it reaches the right temperature for long enough to kill any bacteria. If in doubt, use a cooking thermometer! For beef burgers, before eating the inside temperature should be roughly 71°C. Sausages should be 65°C, and it’s 73°C for chicken.
- If you slice into the cooked meat, it should be steaming hot throughout.
- None of the cooked meat should look pink when you cut into the thickest part.
- All of the juices from the meat should run clear once cooked.
- Always clean any utensils, plates and chopping boards before and after cooking.
- Don’t wash chicken or any other raw meat as splashing water containing harmful bacteria could spread to your food preparation areas.
- Cross-contamination often occurs when raw food touches or drips onto surfaces. Always use different plates, chopping boards and utensils for raw food and cooked food.
- Washing hands in hot soapy water before and after handling food will reduce the risk of cross-contamination.
- Ensure that any raw foods are kept separate to food that’s ready to eat.
Feeling the heat: gas BBQ safety
There are many advantages to choosing a gas-powered BBQ over a charcoal BBQ. As well as being quicker to set up and easier to get going, they give users greater control over the temperature, meaning food is more likely to be cooked properly before serving.
With any gas-powered appliances, it’s important to follow some basic safety rules when cooking with gas cylinders:
- Cylinder safety can vary from brand to brand. Always follow the manufacturer’s advice when handling and using BBQ gas cylinders.
- If you need to change your gas cylinder, make sure that the tap is properly switched off before you start.
- If you think there’s the possibility of a leak on the cylinder or pipework, isolate the source and call your cylinder supplier’s emergency number immediately.
- After you’ve finished cooking, turn off the gas cylinder first (to ensure that any remaining gas is used), then turn the BBQ off at the controls.
General BBQ safety
As well as understanding the risks associated with undercooked food – and how to stay safe when handling gas – here are some general BBQ safety tips that can help prevent any unwanted accidents:
- It may sound obvious, but never barbecue indoors or on balconies.
- Be aware of where you are placing your BBQ. Keep it on flat ground as far away from flammable surfaces as possible (this includes sheds, fences, trees and tents).
- If there are children or pets nearby, keep them well clear of the cooking area.
- Keep a bucket of water or sand nearby in case of an emergency.
- After cooking, do not attempt to the move the BBQ until it is cool.
Although the dangers associated with a BBQ shouldn’t prevent you from cooking up a storm, it’s important to keep safety front of mind.