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How To Ensure Barbecue Food Safety

Feb 3, 2008
Many friends and work colleagues have phoned in sick because of food poisoning and followed it up with something like "I had a BBQ at the weekend, and I must have eaten something not properly cooked".

To be honest I think some of them probably just drank too much but clearly there's enough of a belief out there that food hygiene is a problem at a barbeque for either a genuine day off work or a cast iron excuse.

In many of the barbecue articles that I've written I've concentrated on the phrase "sizzle is hot, flames are not" which focuses on the need to be patient and control the barbecue flames. If however you still haven't mastered this point then maybe it's time to resign yourself to buying a barbecue thermometer?

Why do I need a BBQ thermometer? Take this barbecue hamburger example:

Many folks assume that when barbecued hamburger is brown in the middle, it is well done but according to USDA research, 1 out of every 4 hamburgers turns brown before it reaches a safe internal temperature. The internal temperature must be 160F before its safe to eat.

The bug we're trying to protect ourselves against is e-coli, and bacterium that live on the surface of meat. This is an important point and essential to understand because we can happily eat a rare steak without any chance of food poisoning. Provided the steak is cooked well on the outside, the bacteria are killed.

This is not the case with a hamburger however because the burger is made from ground meat so surface bacteria could be anywhere inside the hamburger.

The signs and symptoms of food borne illness range from upset stomach, diarrhoea, fever, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and dehydration, to more severe illness--even death, but having said all this, please don't be put off having some hamburgers at your next BBQ cookout. With a few simple precautions that follow the rules of basic food hygiene and barbecue food poisoning will be a thing of the past.

Use a food thermometer. Instant-read food thermometers are good for checking the internal temperature toward the end of the cooking time.

1. The food thermometer should be placed in the thickest part of the food and should not be touching bone, fat, or gristle.

2. Make sure to clean your food thermometer with hot, soapy water before and after each use!

The other option is to use a large-dial oven-safe or oven-probe thermometer and these can be inserted in the meat and used for the duration of cooking.

There are many types of food thermometers, so it is important to follow the instructions for your food thermometer to ensure the correct reading. When happy with the method of use you can refer to the USDA Recommended Safe Minimum Internal Temperatures to ensure a safe barbeque cookout.

Steaks & Roasts - 145 F
Fish - 145 F
Pork - 160 F
Ground Beef - 160 F
Egg Dishes - 160 F
Chicken Breasts - 165 F
Whole Poultry - 165 F

That's the main one, but to finish off here are a few more tips to help you avoid food poisoning at your next BBQ:-

1. Wash hands and surfaces often

Use warm, soapy water for 20 seconds before and after handling food and wash you're cutting boards after each food item is prepared

2. Don't cross-contaminate, always keep raw and cooked food separate. Never place cooked food on a plate which previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood.

3. Refrigerate promptly - but do not cover (e.g. with stretch wrap) if the food is still hot

Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared foods, and leftovers within 2 hours or sooner.

Be Food Safe! Prepare With Care

Know how to prepare, handle, and store food safely to keep you and your family safe. Bacteria can grow on meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and dairy products, as well as cut-up or cooked vegetables and fruits.

Follow the above and food poisoning should be a thing of the past. Why not pass this onto your employees? You may see a marked improvement in Monday morning attendance - or maybe just a different excuse.
About the Author
Free Barbecue Recipes - Free BBQ grill recipes & meat smoker cooking ideas on the ceramic barbecue. Barbecue Grill Guide - Compare electric, gas and charcoal barbecue grills. Easy Barbecue Recipes - Easy recipes for the smoker grill with lots of tips.
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