How to ensure food safety during a barbecue
The prospect of an active barbecue season is one of the main reasons to look forward to a long, hot summer, as there's nothing quite like preparing freshly-cooked food and enjoying it in a back garden or the great outdoors.
However, even in the midst of all that excitement, it's important that basic issues of food hygiene and safety are not forgotten about. After all, it's much easier for germs to spread in outdoor environments than it is in a clean kitchen, and nobody wants to be responsible for making their guests ill.
As such, those planning a barbecue either at home or in a public place should bear a few essential food safety tips in mind to make sure the occasion goes off without a hitch.
Keep food at the right temperature
Storing food at the right temperature is a basic tenet of good hygiene, but it's harder to make sure this is happening when you're trying to handle ingredients for a whole group of people away from your kitchen.
That's why it's vital to make sure that any foods you'll be using in the barbecue - especially meat - is kept in the refrigerator for as long as possible before being cooked, and that nothing is left to sit in direct sunlight, as this can cause it to spoil extremely quickly. Setting up your serving area in the shade or even indoors may be the best way to mitigate this risk.
Only make as much as you need
Barbecues are often large-scale communal events, meaning a lot of food will need to be prepared - but at the same time, you should remember that cooking too much all at once increases the likelihood of items being left to sit and go bad.
As such, it's a better idea to cook in small batches, and to stop preparing food when everyone has had their fill. Generally speaking, it's not advisable to hang on to leftovers from barbecues due to the risk of spoilage, so limiting the amount you cook will also stop you from having to throw too much away.
Be aware of the different cooking needs of each food item
For many, barbecues are all about the meat. But not every meat was created equal; different types have a variety of specific cooking needs that you need to be aware of in order to avoid undercooking.
Pork and chicken, for example, need to be cooked thoroughly in all instances, whereas beef is more versatile, allowing the inner parts to remain pink as long as any part of the cut that has been exposed to air is properly cooked. Learn the rules, and then you'll be able to juggle the different preparation times accordingly.
When handling foods with different cooking times, one key consideration is the need to avoid cross-contamination. Placing vegetables down to cook at the same time as the meat won't just risk the vegetables becoming overcooked, but will also create a danger of raw juices getting spread around and posing a risk to hygiene.
By playing it safe on this and other matters, you can make sure your barbecue avoids any of the most common food safety pitfalls, and is remembered for all the right reasons.