As summer comes into full swing, everyone is beginning to look forward to as many weekend BBQs as our stomachs can handle. However, BBQs are notorious for poor hygiene as food often gets left out for long periods of time, and a lot of under-cooking often takes place!
As a food hygiene expert, I’ve put together a brief list of FIVE tips to hosting a successful and safe BBQ.
1 . WASH, WASH, WASH!
Your hands especially should be kept clean at all times as they are the most common vehicle for transferring food poisoning bacteria. Wash your hands for 30 seconds with antibacterial soap to really get clean, and make sure you don’t contaminate your hands again!
So before touching any food, make sure you’ve washed your hands if you’ve been handling raw foods, touching your face, hair, ears, dirty cloths, etc. If there is no source of clean water use disposable wipes, hand sanitiser or food gloves…. don’t wipe your hands on your oven cloth or apron!
Wash your utensils, serving dishes, chopping boards for raw and cooked foods in between use, especially if they’ve previously had raw food in to avoid cross contamination and no wiping with a cloth to clean them either.
Many households do it, but do NOT wash your chicken before use. All this does is splashes germs around the sink and surrounding worktop and onto your clothes and hands. When chicken is cooked well, all harmful germs are killed in the process, making washing chicken more of a hinderance than a help. Always wash salad thoroughly before prepping.
2. PRE-COOK YOUR MEAT AND POULTRY
Although this may seem to not be in the spirit of a proper BBQ, it is a far better alternative to potentially making your guests ill! By pre-cooking meat and poultry in the oven, you ensure that that it has been cooked through properly and that it’s safe.
You can still finish off the cooking process with a quick blast on the BBQ to get the char-grilled flavour – but beware, charring on the outside doesn’t guarantee cooked food on the inside. By using the pre-cook method, you can make sure this isn’t the case.
“Why can you cook a steak medium but not a chicken breast?”
Chicken is associated mainly with Salmonella and Campylobacter – these bacteria are commonly found in the muscle of chicken, as they can be absorbed into the blood stream of the animal and can therefore be found throughout the flesh. This means it requires thorough cooking to eliminate the pathogen and to make the meat safe to eat. With beef however, food poisoning usually occurs due to surface contamination and the presence of e.coli. Therefore, as long as outer surface of the steak is cooked, the inner part should not be contaminated.
3. BBQ BASICS
When using BBQs, especially coal-fuelled ones, achieving a high enough heat can be a difficult task in itself. However, before putting any meat, poultry and fish on the grill always make sure the coals are glowing red with a grey ashy surface.
This is how you know you’ve reached a high enough temperature. Also, with these kinds of BBQs it can be difficult to keep heat consistent across the grill, so make sure you regularly turn the meat and move it around to get an even cook. Be mindful that disposable BBQs take longer to heat up and longer to cook food, so don’t prematurely take your meat off the grill.
4. STORAGE RULES
There are certain rules you should always follow regarding the storage and refrigeration of meat and poultry. Always keep them on the bottom shelf of the fridge to avoid cross contamination and don’t use after the “Use by Date” as this is a big safety issue.
High risk foods in BBQ season are usually meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy as they have a lot of protein and moisture, they must be taken care of the most. They must be kept below 5°C degrees in the fridge before cooking, or above 63°C degrees on a hotplate before serving. Perishable foods should be stored under refrigeration to prevent bacteria from multiplying and to slow down the rate of spoilage. When your food is out on display and everyone is eating, the general rule is that cold food can be displayed up to 4 hours and hot food for 2 hours. Make sure your guests are hungry though as it’s dangerous to put food back into the fridge!
5. CHECK YOUR COOKING
Always test your meat and poultry before serving – burgers and sausages should be cooked all the way through until steaming hot inside.
With all meats you should check the middle as it takes the longest time for the heat to travel to cook it. The main reason sausages and burgers should be cooked thoroughly is because they are minced. and you should never have any pinkness inside your chicken. When checking your poultry, cut through the thickest portion to make sure even the meatiest parts are all done and the juices run clear.
These FIVE pointers are the key things to remember when hosting a barbeque for friends and family, so make sure you follow them! However, this list isn’t the be-all and end-all of barbeque safety.
If you aren’t sure about something, ask Sylvia – the Food Hygiene Expert at: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website www.sylviaaconsultancy.co.uk
But most importantly, make sure you make the most of the sun with your family, friends and enjoy your BBQ!