Barbeque safety

Barbeque safety tips

Food poisoning is usually mild and most people get better within a week but it can be more severe so it is important to take the risks seriously. Children, older people and those with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable. The safest option is to cook food inside using your oven and once the food has been cooked it can be placed outside on the barbecue for added flavour.
If cooking only on the barbecue the two main risks factors are undercooked meat and spreading bacteria from raw meat onto food that is ready to eat. Raw or undercooked meat can contain bacteria that cause food poisoning such as salmonella, E.Coli and campylobacter. However these bacteria can be killed by cooking meat until it is piping hot throughout.

When you are cooking any kind of meat on a barbecue make sure:

  • The coals are glowing red with a powdery grey surface before you start cooking as this means that they are hot enough
  • Frozen meat is properly thawed before you cook it 
  • Ensure you turn the meat regularly and move it around the barbecue to help it cook evenly.

Meat is safe to eat only when it is piping hot in the centre, there is no pink visible and any juices are clear. It is always safer to cut open and check your burgers, sausages and chicken at the thickest part and ensure none of the meat is pink on the inside.

Some meat such as steaks and joints of beef or lamb can be served rare as long as the outside has been properly cooked, as this will kill any bacteria that might be on the outside of the meat. However food made from minced meat such as sausages and burgers must be cooked thoroughly all the way through.


Bacteria from raw meat can transfer easily onto your hands and then onto anything else you touch including food that is cooked and ready to eat and this is called cross -contamination.

To help prevent cross-contamination follow these steps:

  • Always wash your hands after touching raw meat
  • Use separate utensils (chopping boards, plates, tongs and containers) for cooked and raw meat
  • Never put cooked food on a plate or surface that has had raw meat on it 
  • Keep raw meat in a sealed container away from foods that are ready to eat such as salads and buns
  • Do not wash raw chicken or other meat as it can spread germs
  • Do not put raw meat next to cooked or partly cooked meat on the barbecue
  • Do not put sauce or marinade on cooked food if it has already been used with raw meat.

It is also important to keep some foods cool below 8°C to prevent bacteria multiplying for example:

  • Salads
  • Dips
  • Milk, cream and yoghurt
  • Desserts and cream cakes
  • Sandwiches and fillings
  • Ham and other cooked meats
  • Cooked rice and rice salads

Do not leave food out of the fridge for more than a couple of hours and do not leave them in the sun. Any food left over from the barbecue should be thrown away or placed back in the fridge as soon as possible to prevent bacteria from growing or toxins can form and both of these could cause food poisoning.

Barbeque fire safety

The Fire Service advises covering the bottom of your barbecue with coal to a depth of no more than 5cm (2in). Only use recognised firelighters or starter fuel and then only on cold coals but never use petrol on a barbecue. 
There is a risk of fatal carbon monoxide poisoning if barbecues are used incorrectly and not use them indoors, in a tent or enclosed space.

Last updated: 29 November 2019