BBQ season is upon us, and I bet you cant wait to get the grill warmed up and get some delicious food cooking.
But, did you know, during BBQ season, cases of food poisoning double in the US?!
We don’t want to be killjoys, but a trip to ER is never fun.
And when it's a loved one who has eaten something you've cooked? Let's just say the guilt is even more painful than having food poisoning!
And yet, it really is just simple things that can make all the difference.
We’ve put together a 7 step cheat sheet that will eliminate the risk of food poisoning when barbecuing altogether.
1. Repeat the mantra, ‘charred does not mean cooked through’
It amazes us that people still think that the browned outside of chicken pieces or burgers mean the insides are cooked right through.
The truth is, there really is no way to know. The length of time it takes for something to get brown or charred is completely dependent on how hot the barbecue grill is.
Grills are never as accurate as an oven, plus a BBQ grill is subject to whatever temperature it happens to be outdoors (as opposed to an oven which is a closed unit).
The only way to check that any food is cooked through to a safe temperature is to push the probe of a food thermometer right into the center of food.
Stop thinking you have x-ray vision!
Just this one tip could halve the number of annual food poisoning related ER trips in the US!
2. Consider ‘pre-heating’ food
Purists will hate this and say a true BBQ is one where the food is cooked completely outdoors.
That’s fine and well, but sometimes you’re just pushed for time and need to have a barbecue session done quickly. Other times, more people than expected have turned up to your event.
It’s occasions like these when we panic and start trying to cook food too fast, which is when mistakes happen.
Consider using your oven to pre-heat meats, and then finish them off on the barbecue grill.
Your family and friends will still get that smoky, scorched taste (just don’t tell the purists!)
3. Don’t wash raw chicken
We’re amazed that so many recipe books STILL instruct people to wash raw chicken!
First of all, it is completely unnecessary.
As long as you cook chicken right through, all bacteria and germs on the surface and beyond will be killed. So you’re just adding an extra step to your cooking for no reason.
Secondly, the water just splashes germs and bacteria everywhere!
Tiny specks can get onto utensils, worktops, clothes etc. Do you really fancy a deep clean of your kitchen with antibacterial liquid right in the middle of a barbecue? Didn’t think so.
4. Cook food for longer on a disposable BBQ
A real issue is when people, who are used to barbecuing on ‘proper’ BBQ grills, then cook on a disposable one.
These people can be very confident of ‘correct cooking times’ for different types of food, and rely on past experience.
However, disposable BBQs take longer to heat up, and take longer to heat food to safe temperatures.
As always, the only way to know your food is safe is to use a cooking thermometer.
5. Keep raw food away from all serving plates and cutlery
We’ve seen it before where there’s a huge table with everything you could need for the BBQ all piled up.
Keep anything uncooked on a separate table away from where you have your plates and cutlery. Sometimes, all it takes is a minute speck of salmonella or E.coli bacteria to land on someone’s fork or plate for them to become very ill.
Ideally, don’t bring out your crockery and cutlery until all your food is ready to serve.
6. Get into the habit of washing your hands
Most people wash their hands before starting to prepare food. But many forget to wash hands in between handling different food.
Make sure you always wash hands before and after handling meat, fish, eggs and vegetables to avoid cross contamination.
7. Avoid cross contamination of food items
Have a completely separate set of utensils, crockery and cutlery for cooked food that never touch raw meats.
Cutting boards are a prime area for cross contamination, so have 2 separate boards, one that you always use for raw meats, and the other for cooked food and fruit and vegetables.
Have separate utensils for raw meats too. Our BBQ tool set is great for turning meat and vegetables, but it’s worth having a second set to use for serving the food when they are cooked or opt to have a set of spatulas just for using on cooked food.
If you follow all the tips above, we promise you, you’re BBQ will be remembered for all the right reasons this year!