Last updated: 13.12.23

Barbeque Food Safety Tips


The prospect of an active barbecue season is one of the main reasons to look forward to a long, hot summer There's nothing quite like preparing freshly cooked food and enjoying it in the 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. In this article, we share all of the most important barbecue food safety tips to ensure that you enjoy every barbecue without any risk of harming you or your guests.

Cooking on a Barbecue - What are the Risks?

Barbecuing is a fun activity that many people enjoy when the weather gets warm enough to eat outdoors. However, it does present several health and safety risks, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Perhaps the biggest risk regarding barbecue food safety is food poisoning. If you’re cooking meat on a barbecue it’s not always as consistent as using an oven, meaning that the chance of undercooking the meat is higher, which could cause food poisoning.

Another way that cooking on a barbeque differs from using an oven or a hob is that all of the products are cooked together in the same space, which increases the risk of cross-contamination. Juices from raw meat might contaminate things like vegetable skewers or vegetarian products, which means that even non-meat eaters aren’t able to avoid the risk of food poisoning.

Serving and eating food outdoors presents a bit more of a health risk than indoors, since there’s also the chance that contaminants from outside will get on your food. A common risk is bugs or flies landing on prepared food before it is eaten, which can leave harmful bacteria on the products which may cause illness.

From a general health and safety perspective, it’s important to mention that using a barbeque presents a fire risk, especially if it’s an older or smaller model, a disposable type, or the person cooking is unfamiliar with the equipment. Using a barbeque as instructed is essential in avoiding fires or accidents, along with having equipment nearby that can put out a fire if it occurs.

Top Tips for Barbecue Food Safety

Whilst there are risks of cooking on a barbecue, there are plenty of simple measures that you can put in place which reduce these risks and make it easy to host a barbecue without any problems.

By playing it safe and following the below barbecue food safety tips, you can make sure your barbecue avoids any of the most common food safety pitfalls and is remembered for all the right reasons.

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.

It's vital to make sure that any foods you'll be using in the barbecue - especially meat - are kept in the refrigerator for as long as possible before being cooked. You should also ensure 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. Avoid taking all the food being barbecued out of the fridge at once, and try to bring it out to be cooked just before it goes on the grill.

Avoid Food Waste

Barbecues are often large-scale communal events, meaning a lot of food will need to be prepared. At the same time, one of the often overlooked BBQ tips you should remember is that cooking too much all at once increases the likelihood of items being left to sit and go bad, which could either be eaten or wasted.

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.

Cook Each Item as Instructed

For many, barbecues are all about the meat. But not every meat was created equal and 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. When it comes to how to cook on a BBQ, you shouldn’t just put a range of types of meat on a barbeque for the same amount of time, you should tend to them separately in line with proper cooking guidance.

Learn the rules, and then you'll be able to juggle the different preparation times accordingly.

Avoid Cross-Contamination

When handling foods with different cooking times, one key consideration of barbecue food safety 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.

If possible, designate a section of the barbeque to non-meat items and don’t let any of the meat products contaminate this section. If your barbeque isn’t big enough to do this, either cook all of your non-meat products first, cook these inside in your kitchen, or consider buying a disposable barbecue for this purpose

How to Cook on a BBQ

Knowing how to properly cook on a BBQ is an essential element of BBQ safety. Preparation is an important part of this, involving getting everything you need set up and in easy reach before you light your barbecue.

If you’re using a gas barbecue then this process is much simpler, as it’ll be easy to get the BBQ to light and identify when it’s at the right temperature. For a barbecue that uses coals, you’ll need to carefully light the fire and then wait for all of the coals to be hot, which can take around 15-20 minutes and needs monitoring.

It’s recommended that you have a ‘hot’ and ‘cool’ area on each side of your barbecue for products that need cooking on direct and indirect heat. You should have metal tongs with long handles to move the coal around, as well as a heat-proof glove for extra protection. 

A great piece of advice for cooking on a barbecue is to try and do some of the cooking inside in your kitchen already, and just finish products off over the coals. This reduces the risk of uncooked food and also means that you won’t be standing waiting around for all of your products to be ready.

Collaboration is one of the best approaches to successful barbecuing. If other people can bring your food from the fridge when it needs cooking, keep an eye on how long each product needs, and take food off the barbecue for serving, it makes it easier for the cook to ensure that each product is cooked properly and no accidents occur.


Can you reheat BBQ food?

BBQ food does carry a slightly higher risk of food poisoning, but it can be reheated after being cooked and cooling down if you have leftovers that you wish to eat another day. However, you should aim to eat these leftovers within 48 hours and ensure that you reheat the meat to an appropriate high temperature to avoid the risk of any harmful bacteria developing. You should also only reheat BBQ leftovers once, never multiple times.

When is a BBQ ready to cook on?

A BBQ is ready to cook on with direct heat when the coals are glowing white hot and have red centres when they are very gently blown on. If you want to cook with indirect heat, a BBQ is ready for cooking when all of the coals are an ashy white colour.

How hot should a BBQ be?

The ideal BBQ cooking temperature depends on the kind of food that you want to cook on it. Low heat, which works for slow cooking, is around 120°C and 180°C, medium heat, which is ideal for cooking sausages and burgers, is between 180°C to 230°C, and high heat, for things like vegetables or chargrilling cooked meat, is between 230°C to 290°C.


You don’t need to carry out a full-blown BBQ risk assessment before you start cooking, but understanding the key elements of barbecue safety and learning BBQ basics are very important when it comes to avoiding risk and illness. Maintaining good food hygiene standards is always important when cooking at home, especially if you’re hosting guests, so remember things like the correct BBQ cooking temperature, keeping products separate and reducing food waste will all help to ensure a fun and safe experience. 

If you’d like to learn more about how to ensure you stay safe when cooking at home, our Level 1 Food Safety and Hygiene online training course provides a professional-level overview of many aspects of food safety and hygiene, including the right temperatures and times for cooking different products.