Lizzie and Ron prepare their barbecue charter

As the sun comes out and the temperature rises, Ollie’s thoughts turn to barbecue. His mum’s enthusiastic, but Grandad Ron and wife Lizzie aren’t so sure, and stay in the safety of the kitchen…

“Just why does a sunny weekend bring out this primeval instinct in men that makes them think they can cook a family meal over an open fire?”, Lizzie wanted to know.

Together she and Grandad Ron stood inside their kitchen, with its shiny oven, hob, and microwave, and watched Ollie and his mum Lorna shuffling round a barbecue, trying to keep out of the way of the smoke.

Waving her hand at the appliances around her Lizzie said: “We have all of this equipment to help us cook things perfectly, and yet as soon as the sun comes out he’s out there with a bucket of coal trying to achieve the same result. I don’t understand it; never have.”

Ron added his own view. “It has to be something deep inside his psyche; the same thinking that means he’s brought in enough food to feed the whole street. That must be a throwback to when the tribe went out hunting and came back with a mammoth. Are we expecting company? I hope so. There’s no way I can eat even a fraction of that sausage and burger, steak and pork chops. I’ve seen less meat at the butchers.”

Lizzie was reaching for a pad and pen. “I can see a blog in this for my Lizzie Banks On It blog,” she said. “People are going to barbecue anyway, as we should try to help them to do it safely. We don’t want them ending up in hospital with food poisoning.”

“Or setting fire to next-door’s shed,” added Ron, ruefully. “What’s going to be on your list?”

So whilst Ollie hopped about on the patio, happily prodding pieces of part-cooked meat, drinking beer from the bottle and generally having a good time in his own little world, Lizzie and her father-in-law talked about ideas for safe barbecuing. This is their list:

Lizzie and Ron’s safe barbecue charter

  1. Stand the barbecue on a solid surface, away from wooden fences, sheds, and garden plants
  2. Keep an eye on the children, who are bound to want to get involved
  3. Plan ahead, and have the barbecue lit in good time
  4. Don’t leave it alone
  5. Wear an apron for cooking. Spitting hot fat can cause nasty burns
  6. Wash your hands before handling food
  7. Keep food in the fridge rather than outside in the sun
  8. Don’t mix up cooked and raw meat, or the spoons and tongs you use to handle them
  9. Make sure everything frozen is properly thawed before cooking
  10. Make sure the barbecue is hot enough before you start
  11. Don’t cook meat too quickly, to avoid the ‘unique-to-a-barbecue’ result of food charred on the outside but raw in the middle
  12. Don’t leave food out for more than a couple of hours
  13. Keep it covered to keep away flies and wasps
  14. Serve food in batches over the course of an afternoon; a lot of eating goes on, and people can’t manage everything at once

You don’t need to be too precious but if you follow a few basic rules, you can be sure your guests will go home feeling pleasantly satisfied not peaky.

  1. Keep all your perishable ingredients in the fridge until you’re ready to serve them. Often with a barbecue people are grazing over a period of time so you want to avoid taking food out before it’s necessary.
  2. All frozen meat should be thoroughly thawed out before you put it on the barbecue, otherwise it may appear to be cooked on the outside but will be raw on the inside.
  3. Wash your hands before handling food to avoid any cross-contamination. If you touch raw meat or fish, wash your hands before touching ready-to-eat foods and do not put ready-to-eat foods on plates that have been used to carry raw meat or fish. You also want to avoid using any utensils for both raw and ready-to-eat foods.
  4. Make sure your barbecue is hot enough before you start and turn your meat during cooking time so that it cooks evenly throughout.
  5. For extra safety, ensure all meat, particularly chicken, pork, sausages and burgers is cooked throughout. You can be less concerned with steaks and lamb chops. Ensure fish is cooked throughout too.
  6. Watch out for dripping meat and fish juices, avoid trailing raw meat or fish over cooked and do not use leftover marinade as a sauce.Barbecue Charter
  7. Don’t leave food out in direct sunlight, pick a shady spot or indoors for your buffet table. Don’t leave food out for more than two hours. The safest option is often to throw away leftovers. But here’s our guide to the do’s and don’ts.
  8. If you are planning to be serving food over the course of an afternoon, put salads, meats and other perishable foods out in batches in fresh bowls.
  9. Keep desserts in the fridge until the main course is over, again avoiding unnecessary time standing around.
  10. Barbecues can be dangerous so take a look at the Fire Service advice to ensure you and your family and friends stay safe.