Fiery Feasts! BBQ food safety and nutrition advice.

Summer is not summer without at least one barbeque, sunny days permitting in the good old British weather. The term barbecue derives from the word “barabicu” which comes from the language of the Taíno people of the Caribbean, translates into “barbeque” “a sacred fire pit". This method of cooking food has been around for centuries; people have been building fires and cooking their food either in the embers or over the flames for years. Although our lifestyles and cooking methods have changed (thanks to the fitted kitchen) barbequing food remains a very enjoyable way to cook, whilst producing succulent food with a unique char grilled smoky flavour.

Did you know that the Mongolians in the 1200s cooked their meat over their shields over an open fire? Admittedly cooking meat over a dirty shield is not the most hygienic way of barbequing meat! 

Alan Broadbent started his working life as a chef cooking in a number of restaurants and hotels, before pursuing a career as an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) for the past 15 years.  Alan has provided us with some top tips to keep everyone healthy and safe at this year’s summer barbeques. He has also given us some of his favourite marinades to coat your meat/fish in before barbequing.

Food Safety Tips from Alan Broadbent EHO

  • Washing your hands is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of foodborne illness. Always wash for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after handling food. Wash again when you switch from one food to another.
  • Make sure the temperature of you fridge is below 8 degrees (aim for 5 degrees). If your fridge does not have a temperature gauge purchase a refrigerator thermometer so that you can make sure the temperature is set correctly.
  • Ensure that all of your raw meat is stored in the bottom of the fridge in Tupperware boxes if possible- to stop blood leaking.
  • Any frozen food should be thoroughly defrosted before you start cooking.
  • Make sure that when you are cooking, raw foods should be kept in the fridge until they are needed. When they are out of the fridge, ensure they are covered either in a sealed Tupperware box or covered by cling film prior to cooking.
  • Don’t forget to light the barbeque for at least 30 minutes before you start to cook on it, this is to ensure that the embers are hot enough (they should be glowing red with a powdery grey surface) and that the meat is cooked thoroughly.
  • You should turn the meat regularly and move it around the barbecue to cook it evenly.
  • Remember that meat is safe to eat only when:
    • It is hot in the centre.
      • There is no pink meat visible.
      • Any juices are clear
  • Just because meat is charred on the outside don’t assume it will be cooked properly on the inside. By cutting into the meat at the thickest part you can check to ensure none of it is pink on the inside and also see whether the juices run clear.
  • Ensure that separate cooking utensils are used that sorts the raw meat utensils from the cooked meat utensils.
  • Make sure that cooked food is placed on clean plates. Never put cooked food on a plate, chopping board or surface which has had raw meat on it.
  • Don’t leave food out of the fridge for more than a couple of hours, and don’t leave food in the sun.

The following are two of Alan’s favourite marinades. The main ingredients are things that can be found in your food cupboard or the fridge. Preparation time for preparing the marinades is about 10 minutes. Marinade your meat/fish for at least 1 hour. To obtain the best flavour, marinade your meat/fish for up to 24 hours.

Sweet & spicy Hawaiian marinade (Serves: 8)

  • 100ml balsamic vinegar
  • 225ml orange juice
  • 225ml pineapple juice
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 dessertspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 chopped/crushed garlic clove
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped
  • dried crushed chillies or Tabasco Sauce to taste
    • Mix the all the ingredients together in a bowl with a whisk.
    • Place meat or fish in a separate dish, bowl, or Tupperware container. Pierce the meat/fish with a fork a few times or score with a knife. Then pour 1/2 of the marinade over it. Turn the meat/fish over and repeat using up the remainder marinade.
    • Marinade for at least 1 hour, up to 24 hours for the best flavour.

SS marinade (Serves: 6)

  • 150ml soy sauce
  • 2-3 chopped/crushed garlic cloves
  • 1/2 dessertspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 100ml dry medium sherry
  • Chopped parsley
    • Mix the all the ingredients together in a bowl with a whisk.
    • Place meat or fish in a separate dish, bowl, or Tupperware container. Pierce the meat/fish with a fork a few times or score with a knife. Then pour 1/2 of the marinade over it. Turn the meat/fish over and repeat using up the remainder marinade.
    • Marinade for at least 1 hour, up to 24 hours for the best flavour.  

What would you like to eat at a barbeque?

“Enjoy your food!” is the first guideline in the 8 guidelines for a healthy diet, eating is one of the most pleasurable and sociable aspects of life.

There are no “Good” and “Bad” foods only healthy and unhealthy diets. Healthy eating does not mean that certain foods are banned and other foods are considered a necessity. Healthy eating is all about obtaining a better balance of foods in your diet, this is to maximize your health and minimize the risk of certain diseases i.e. heart disease, obesity, diabetes type 2.

As a Dietitian I encourage variety in the diet as much as possible to ensure all your energy, protein, vitamin and mineral requirements are met. Barbeque parties have a variety of food on offer to suit everyone’s taste buds, needs and wants. Always check if you have anyone with specific dietary requirements i.e. vegan or any allergies, this makes the planning easier and no one misses out.

Here are some food ideas to get you started

  • Meat- Ask your local butcher to put together a barbeque selection. The advantage of this is often local butchers are cheaper as they have to compete with the larger supermarkets, the meat is of superior quality and you know exactly what you are getting. Your butcher will also give you some recipes and tips on how to cook that will suit the cut of the meat i.e. Beef steak –fillet, sirloin, rump
    • Try--Burgers, sausages, kebabs, chicken wings & drumsticks, beef steak, pork steak, chicken breasts. Try one of Alan’s marinades on your meat.
  • Fish- barbequing is a fantastic way to cook fish. Fish doesn’t need to cook for long and barbequing retains the wonderful flavour, especially if cooked in tin foil. If you don’t fancy preparing the fish yourself visit your local fishmonger and they will prepare the fish for you. They also offer good advice on great ways to cook them.
    • Try--Salmon fillets wrapped in tin foil with butter, tuna steaks, fresh mackerel or sardines.
  • No meat - Vegetarianism (not eating meat) is now very popular. It may be due to religious or health beliefs, therefore among your guests you are bound to have at least one who is a vegetarian. Some vegetarians eat fish, so a portion of salmon wrapped in tin foil will be well received by them. Perhaps you may even have a vegan (no meat, dairy or anything from an animal i.e. no eggs, no ice-cream) in this instance it is better to check prior to them coming what food they can eat. You can buy meat free alternatives from the supermarkets i.e. vegetarian sausages or burgers or you can make your own bean burgers (see recipe). You will need to keep the meat free food away from the meat whilst cooking on the barbeque to avoid cross contamination.

Spicy Bean burgers

  • 1 can of chick peas drained and rinsed
  • 1 can of chick peas drained and rinsed
  • 100gm of breadcrumbs
  • 2 teaspoons of mild chili powder
  • 3 sun dried tomatoes chopped in small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons of spicy salsa sauce (see recipe)
  • Salt and pepper to season

Tip the beans into a bowl and mash together using a potato masher. Add the breadcrumbs, chili powder, sun dried tomatoes and the spicy salsa. Mix thoroughly with a fork to ensure an even mixture add salt and pepper to season. Divide the mixture using your hands and mould into burger shapes. Once formed place on tin foil and store in the fridge until ready. Barbeque each burger for around 3-5 minutes on each side until they are looking golden and crisp. Serve with a sliced bap/ burger bun topped with fried or raw onions and a good dollop of spicy salsa.

Spicy salsa

  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon of dried red chili powder or 1 fresh red chili (chopped)
  • Quarter to half a teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil
  • A Pinch of salt

Fry the chili in a pan in the oil for about 30 seconds, don’t let it burn. Add the tinned tomatoes, sugar, balsamic vinegar and the salt and heat for around 2-3 minutes mixing thoroughly.  Allow to cool and serve with your other sauces

  • Carbohydrates- We need these to wrap the meat/fish up whilst eating on the go, if you can sit down and eat with a plastic knife and fork then you have more options available to you i.e. jacket potato and sweet potato. Potatoes can be washed and pricked and wrapped in tin foil and can cook in the embers of the fire for about 10-15 minutes, saving your space up on the grill of the sacred fire pit, don’t forget to keep checking on them though. Other carbohydrates to go with your meat/fish are bread rolls, wraps, submarine rolls (for the sausages). Other ideas to fill up your guests include  rice salad and pasta salad.
  • Fruit- In the summer you have the pick of the sumptuous berries; raspberries, and strawberries are great with ice-cream. Puddings in the summer are designed at being light i.e. Pavlova as the meringue contains no fat. I don’t have many recipes that incorporate fruit cooking on the barbeque except one which I picked up when I went camping with the girl guides (many years ago!) it uses banana and chocolate which is a fantastic combination.

Bananas with chocolate (serves 4)

  • 4 bananas
  • 1-2 packs of chocolate buttons
  • Tin foil

Slit each banana down the middle keeping the peel on and insert as many chocolate buttons as you like. Wrap each one individually in tin foil and place on the barbeque for about 5 minutes. The chocolate melts into the yummy banana and you can eat it out of the skin with a spoon and no mess!

  • Vegetables-you don’t have to settle for a cold salad i.e. lettuce, tomato and cucumber. Although a cold salad goes great with your sausages and burgers. However some vegetables that are char grilled really bring out the flavours especially red peppers, tomatoes and courgettes. Here are some ideas.
    • Veggie kebobs (see below) grilled sliced aubergine or courgettes brushed with oil and a sprinkling of mixed herbs, Sweet corn on the cobs brushed with oil or wrapped in tin foil and butter. Avocado halved and cooked on the barbeque face down.

Veggie kebobs (serves 4)

  • 1 red pepper (chopped roughly)
  • 1 yellow pepper (chopped roughly)
  • 1 red or white onion (chopped roughly)
  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • Halloumi cheese (optional chopped into cubes)
  • 8 medium sized mushrooms
  • 4 skewers
  • 6 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Half a teaspoon of mixed herbs

Thread the vegetables and halloumi cheese onto the skewers alternating between them. Push the vegetables close together on the skewers so they don’t fall off into the barbeque embers. At each end use the cherry tomatoes (it keeps them more balanced). In a separate bowl mix together the olive oil and mixed herbs and brush over the kebobs. Cook for around 3- 5 minutes on each side on the barbeque and serve.

Don’t forget the sauces i.e. tomato, mayonnaise, barbeque sauces, mustard etc balsamic vinegar is great with steak and spicy salsa is great with everything.

Last of all don’t forget the barbeque drinks, alcoholic and non alcoholic. Drink sensibly and have a great time!

Thanks to Alan Broadbent EHO for his contribution.