If there’s one thing us Brits are good at, it’s making the most of a sunny day. When we were stuck at home for months on end during the first Covid-19 lockdown in 2020, with unprecedented months of Springtime sunshine to boot, it’s no wonder that our enthusiasm for BBQ-ing went through the roof.
According to research by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, there were 100 million occasions of people barbequing between April and August that year, up 44% year-on-year and 18% higher than the sweltering summer of 2018, and resulting in a boost of £12.4 million to the BBQ market.
Now the world has returned to some semblance of normality and summer is upon us again, there is no sign of our appetite for BBQs diminishing. In fact, not only are we keen to keep lockdown traditions alive in our gardens and at outdoor events, we’re also increasingly looking for dining options with indoor grills and BBQs. Even at the highest end of the market, more and more chefs, from David Carter at Smokestak to Tomos Perry at Brat, are turning to open flames to add a little something extra to their menus.
But there’s no smoke without fire and it’s important to keep food safety top of mind, not only to avoid cross contamination, food poisoning and accidents at outdoor BBQs, but also to mitigate against the lesser known risk of carbon monoxide poisoning when open flames are being used behind closed doors.
With National BBQ Week upon us, our Food Alert experts have put their heads together to present their top food and fire safety tips to ensure you enjoy this most British of pastimes safely.
- Before you begin, check that the barbecue is stable, strong and sturdy and located outdoors, on level ground and away from fences, sheds overhanging trees. Always take care when lighting it and never use petrol or other accelerants which are explosive and can cause serious injury!
- Don’t leave children [and pets] unsupervised near a barbecue! Hot coals and fire are extremely dangerous.
- When you have finished cooking, make sure that the barbecue is completely extinguished and ensure that it has cooled down significantly before you dispose of any coals.
Many people are not aware that BBQs emit dangerous carbon monoxide if they are not used properly. Indeed, it is known as the ‘silent killer’. You can’t see it, taste it, or smell it, but carbon monoxide is released from the burning of carbon-based fossil fuels including coal, gas, oil, petrol, paraffin, charcoal and wood, and causes around 50 deaths each year in the UK as well as a number of hospital admissions.
Concerningly, Food Alert recently carried out two restaurant audits, where chefs were offering indoor BBQs but did not have carbon monoxide detectors installed.
So, we recommend the following:
- Invest in a carbon monoxide detector device – it is an absolute must for restaurants and adventurous home cooks who cook over open flames indoors
- Never bring your BBQs indoors as they are not designed for this. Stick to well-ventilated outdoor areas only.
- Keep raw meat, fish and poultry separate from cooked/ready to eat food. This helps to avoid contaminating ready to serve food with food poisoning bacteria.
- You must wash your hands after handling raw foods and before touching ready to eat foods.
- Always use different utensils and plates for raw items and cooked/ready to eat foods.
- Ensure that meat is thoroughly thawed before you begin cooking.
- Don’t wash raw chicken! Cooking will kill any bacteria present, including campylobacter, while washing chicken can spread germs around your kitchen by splashing.
- Whilst everyone loves the delicious chargrilled, smoky flavour of a barbecue, it is good practice to pre-cook meat and poultry in the oven, before transferring it the barbecue to give it that authentic taste. Undercooked meat and poultry is a serious health hazard, leading to food poisoning from bacteria such as campylobacter, E. coli 0157 and salmonella. These can result in serious illness including vomiting, fever and diarrhoea.
- Ensure meat is cooked thoroughly in particular poultry, pork, burgers and sausages – the outside can appear cooked and charred when the inside is still raw. Turn the food regularly to ensure it is cooked evenly on all sides.
- You can check your BBQ’d meat is ready to serve by cutting into the centre – there shouldn’t be any pink meat and the juices run clear. Even better use a probe thermometer to check the internal temperature has reach 75 o NB: Steaks, or whole joints of beef or lamb can be served rare as long as they are cooked on the outside. Any harmful bacteria will be on the outside only, and not in the centre.
- Refrigerate all meats, salads and desserts until they are needed. Leaving food in the sunlight and in warm temperatures can lead to growth of food poisoning bacteria.
- Use long handled tools to avoid burns or scalds to your hands or arms.
- Keep food covered before and after serving. If there are any leftovers, refrigerate as soon as possible.
- Be careful of steam when opening foil parcels – the temperature can rise significantly, and the steam could scald you.
- Remember that the metal parts of a barbecue can become hot – don’t try to move it until it has cooled down.
Happy BBQing, everybody! We’ll certainly be joining you for some chargrilled deliciousness, whether the sun decides to shine or not.