With an increase in hot weather, you’ll find us Brits outside making the sun by celebrating with a barbecue.
But if you want to make sure the sighting of a rain cloud is the only thing that threatens to spoil your fun, then you need to make sure that your cooking is up to scratch. Undercooked meat – and undercooked chicken, in particular – poses a very real danger to your health.
Campylobacter – a bacteria found in meat and unpasteurised milk – is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK, according to the Food Standards Agency, with four in every five cases of campylobacter food poisoning caused by contaminated poultry, especially chicken. Exposure to just a few bacteria can make you extremely ill, so you should be extra-careful if chicken is on the menu at your barbecue.
Fortunately, there is plenty you can do – and plenty you can avoid doing – to protect yourself and those you are cooking for against a nasty bout of food poisoning.
NEVER serve chicken before you’ve checked it’s cooked all the way through
When you slice into the thickest part, you shouldn’t be able to see any pink meat and the juices should run clear. If in doubt, don’t risk it.
NEVER guestimate times and temperatures
Use a digital probe thermometer to check that the thickest part of the meat has reached 70°C and stays at this temperature for 2 minutes. Our cookery team like the Thermapen.
‘It’s ideal for barbecues as its instant-read nature means you can get a reading super-fast without having your hand hovering too long over a burning hot barbecue,’ says Emma Franklin, GH cookery editor.
NEVER rush to get food on the barbecue
Once the flames have died down, and the charcoal glows red with a powdery grey surface, you’re ready to go. Any sooner than this and you risk burning the outside of the food while the centre remains dangerously undercooked.
NEVER store raw chicken near ready-to-eat foods
Cross-contamination – the transfer of bacteria from raw chicken to ready-to-eat food, is one of the main causes of campylobacter poisoning. Store raw chicken separately from things like cooked meat, salads and bread rolls to minimise the risk.
NEVER use the same plates, utensils and chopping boards for raw and cooked food
Clear away dishes that have had raw chicken on them as soon as the meat is on the barbecue and keep a stack of clean dishes handy, ready to put the cooked meat on to avoid any confusion.
NEVER forget to wash your hands after you’ve handled raw chicken
Good personal hygiene can significantly reduce the risk of cross-contamination.
NEVER wash raw chicken
This just splashes germs onto your hands, utensils and worktops.
NEVER put too much food on the barbecue
Remember that disposable barbecues take longer to heat up and to cook food. If you’re cooking for a large crowd, pre-cook chicken thoroughly in the oven then give it a final finish on the barbecue to achieve that chargrilled taste safely.
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