Food Hygiene Tips for a Safe Barbecue

11:02 am

Very few things encapsulate British Summer Time more than the waft of a freshly fired up barbecue in the air on sizzling afternoons and warm sunny evenings. 

The word ‘barbecue’ has become much more than simply a way to describe a method of cooking.
It is now a social event and Brits are by far the most enthusiastic nation in Europe, firing up around 130 million barbecues every year. It is an activity that is as popular at small community summer fetes and large-scale outdoor festivals as it is in the home.

For ease and convenience, you can’t beat the barbecue when it comes to feeding a relatively large number of people in a minimal amount of time. And you don’t need a Michelin Star to make great tasting food. But, at the same time, you don’t need a Food Hygiene Certificate, either!

One person in five asked in a recent FSA survey believed they had been ill due to something they had eaten at a barbecue. It is a high-risk environment for contracting campylobacter, an illness which affects an estimated 250,000 people per year in the UK.

If you are planning to serve barbecue at a community event or in the home this sumer, make sure to follow these simple hygiene rules recommended by The Food Standards Agency (FSA) to ensure that your delicious food doesn’t end up leaving a bad aftertaste.  

Why is official BBQ food hygiene advice important?  

The barbecue cook will not always be an experienced chef, but will always spend plenty of time on planning their menu in advance. Yet the simple hygiene practices required to avoid placing guests at risk of food poisoning are often overlooked.

There are very few catering events where the rules of hygiene are ignored more than the domestic or small-scale community barbecue. A whopping 94% of over 2000 people asked for a Food Standards Agency survey in 2014 admitted that they were aware of making at least one food hygiene mistake that could have potentially put the health of their diners at risk.

What are the food hygiene risks and how can you avoid them? 

Cross Contamination

The FSA survey found that cross contamination is one of the biggest risks to health linked to barbecues. Over 51% reported that they used the same tongs for picking up raw meat and fish as they did for decanting cooked meat and fish off of the barbecue and on to a plate. Worse still, 19% admitted that they used the same plates for raw and cooked meats and fish. FSA guidelines recommend that raw and cooked meats must be stored separately before cooking. They should also be subjected to different tongs, utensils, plates and chopping boards during the preparation and serving processes.

You could also use colour-coded chopping boardstongs and knives to help limit the risk in a workspace where more than one person is involved in processes of barbecue service and delivery.

Temperature control 

The temperature food is both stored and cooked at is of critical importance in the maintenance of the highest standards of food hygiene. Having cooked or uncooked meat and fish hanging around at room temperature provide a veritable playground for bacteria. A worrying 47% of respondents in the FSA survey admitted they were guilty of a failure to adhere to recommendations in this particular area.

Uncooked meat or fish should be stored below 5°C for as long as possible before it is ready to be cooked on the barbecue. Once the raw food is on the barbecue, it is important that it is cooked through thoroughly and is at a safe temperature in the middle before serving.

The FSA believes cooked food should not be served with an internal temperature of below 63°C and should ideally reach an internal temperature of 70°C for at least two minutes. You may consider cooking meat in in the oven before finishing for a few minutes on the barbecue to add the authentic smoky flavour.

Make sure the meat is: 

  • steaming hot throughout
  • completely void of all pink meat when you cut into the thickest part
  • showing clear running juices before it is served.  

Almost a third (28%) of people asked by the FSA admitted to not checking that burgers and sausages were cooked all the way through. The amount of people who admitted to not checking chicken was even higher (32%).

thermometer/food probe will help you to make sure that all the cooked meats you serve are at the right temperature. Don’t forget to use thermometer probe wipes to prevent the risk of cross contamination!

Please wash your hands
Washing your hands is one of the simplest ways to help you maintain and deliver a safe barbecue experience. Hands should be washed regularly throughout barbecue service and especially after handling raw meat or fish. If soap and water are not available use alcohol-based hand sanitiser or disposable food gloves to limit the risk of cross-contamination. Also ensure that you have enough cleaning solutions and cloths in order to keep food preparation areas suitably clean and sanitised throughout service.

Quick tips

  • Light barbecue well ahead of your guests' arrival. 
  • Food should be cooked with heat from coals glowing grey. Naked flames do not cook food evenly all the way through.  
  • Do not partially cook food on the barbecue for finishing off later.  
  • Thaw frozen food thoroughly before cooking it. 
  • Don’t overcrowd the cooking surface. 


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