BBQ Checklist: Preparation and Safety Guide
Planning a BBQ
Our beloved British summer will soon be here! Which means one thing for the sun-seeking opportunists of the British Isles: barbecues.
While it might seem simple to organise a fun, summer BBQ event, there’s more to think about than you might have initially considered.
And let’s not forget how unpredictable the UK weather is – a successful BBQ requires careful planning and a few contingency plans in case your surprise guest is a great British downpour!
Thankfully, we’ve thought of everything for you – the following BBQ checklist covers everything you need to consider when organising and catering a BBQ event.
Check in advance what the weather is going to be like. Make sure you have the space indoors, just in case it rains. If it’s going to be a large event maybe have a marquee on standby in case the rain decides to make an unwelcome appearance. And if you are booking a venue, you could always choose to host your barbecue at a place with available shelter.
Guaranteed a sunny day? Well great! Your options are plentiful so get creative with selecting a stunning setting for your mouth-watering al fresco feast. Especially if your event is open to the public, make sure that you think about:
- Disabled access.
- WC facilities.
- Make sure your venue is easy to get to for your guests.
- How suitable the environment is for the guests who are attending.
Theme and Decorations
If you’re organising a public event like a beer festival or even a large neighbourhood watch meeting, there’s always the option to jazz it up with a theme. Some great themes include:
- Garden tea party.
- Tropical; think floral shirts & flower garlands.
- Decades: 70s, 80s and 90s are crowd pleasers.
- A fiesta.
- Beach theme.
If some of the guests are your friends and family, it might be a good idea to ask people to bring things like drinks, sides, and dessert.
BBQ Shopping List
Need some ideas about what to cook? Here are your essential BBQ items:
- Burgers (…and don’t just think beef! Chicken, lamb and veggie are great options)
- Hot dog rolls and burger buns (why not try brioche buns for a street-food feel?)
- Chicken wings and thighs
- Burger garnish: lettuce, tomato and red onion (cut into rings)
- Cheese slices
- Mixed Salads – basic salad, cous cous, potato salad etc
- Meat / Fish Skewers: make them with prawns, chicken or chorizo chunks
- Veggie Skewers: halloumi, red pepper, onion, courgette
- Portobello mushrooms
- Corn on the cob – could get messy so make sure you’ve got some holders handy!
- Baking potatoes
- Mustard, Ketchup, Mayo, BBQ sauce or burger relish
- Bananas wrapped in foil or marshmallows on sticks for dessert!
Depending on the dietary requirements of your guests, you may want to have a separate vegetarian and vegan grill and another for meat eaters.
Pre-BBQ Food Prep
Prepare the BBQ foods that you can before guests arrive. The following prep ideas will save you loads of time:
- Create and toss salads (add dressing before serving)
- Chop onions, meat, peppers and fruit ahead of time and get it all ready in bowls.
- Glaze and marinate joints, breasts, fillets and other portions of meat the night before.
- Pre-cut bread for hot dogs and burgers.
- Get your skewers ready for the grill.
If you’re cooking, wear clothing that’s suitable for grilling. Don’t forget your mitts for handling anything hot and perhaps bring gloves if you’re going to be handling a lot of raw meat. You can change your gloves more easily than you can wash your hands in the great outdoors.
Bear in mind that whatever you decide to wear may smell strongly of food for the rest of the day. So you may want to pack a change of clothing.
And do avoid wearing clothing with long sleeves, as they might be a fire hazard.
Have you seen our report on the state of Food Hygiene across the UK? Check out our interactive map and find out how hygienic your hometown really is in Food Hygiene: Know the Score.
Cooking Equipment & Utensils
What equipment do you need to make sure you can cook safely?
Bring a plentiful supply of whatever fuel is appropriate for your barbecue!
Now, think tongs, spatulas, knives, etc. Bring enough so that you can use different utensils for raw meat, cooked meat, and non-meat food for hygiene purposes.
Another handy tip is to bring a meat thermometer (if you have one) – then you know if your meat is cooked through.
Invest in cool bags – forgetting to store meat safely is dangerous. You can’t store meat in the danger zone (5°C-60°C) for a prolonged period. Use ice packs in combination with a cool bag to chill your food.
You also can’t go wrong with plenty of Tupperware and kitchen foil for preserving freshness, reducing contamination risks, and storing unwanted rubbish.
If you haven’t scoped out your location beforehand or if you know that it has a lack of suitable seating space, make provisions for seating.
You can’t expect your guests to stand all day, so either ask them to bring their own seating or find a solution yourself. Buy a set of affordable folding chairs or bring dining table chairs outside!
Bringing expensive, fragile and heavy crockery and cutlery is impractical. Most barbecues only require paper/plastic plates, cups and cutlery sets. Whilst this might seem like an additional cost when you already have perfectly good ware to eat with, the effort and space you’ll save in not bringing your ordinary crockery and cutlery will be very welcome when it comes to packing all your supplies and transporting them to the venue.
Have concerns about using disposable crockery and cutlery? The alternative option would – ideally – be to ask each party of guests to bring their sets of dining ware; this way, no one party is encumbered by a mass of glass and china!
It’s worth mentioning that disposable cups and plates are not environmentally friendly, not practical in windy conditions and are also unsuitable for foods like steak.
If you’re mostly just using disposable materials, then you’ll need refuse sacks for your rubbish, and of course, the all important provisions for cleaning your hands.
Bring hand sanitiser and other hygiene provisions. And wash your hands after handling different types of food especially raw meat.
However, if you aren’t using disposable materials, it will save you so much time later on if you bring a few bits and pieces. Some of the following materials are great if you’re arranging a large barbecue event and bringing reusable equipment. Think about bringing along the following cleaning materials:
- A gas stove and pan for boiling water
- Water (if your venue has none available)
- A washing up bowl
- Sponges and washing up cloths
- Washing up liquid
- Large picnic blankets
- Anti-bacterial wipes
- Drying towels
You can use the above for giving your equipment a quick clean and soak. You don’t need to give them a thorough wash now, as you can always place them in the dishwasher as soon as you get home. Leaving hard to remove stains for later is a move you’ll regret, so make sure to take the time to bring some suitable cleaning materials!
Entertainment and Activities
Your barbecue can be more than just a social dining occasion if you want it to be.
Think about the sort of entertainment that your guests will enjoy – you can provide music, bring fun ready-made games to play, create quizzes or games of your own, or schedule classic tried & tested party games that people know and love. What’s important is that you’re in tune with what your audience would like to do whilst relaxing.
If kids are coming to your BBQ, make sure to provide suitable entertainment. This process stems right back to your venue selection – either make sure there are play and/or entertainment facilities already provided for children or pick a location where kids can improvise and play.
Bringing sports equipment and team games are simple methods to bring people together and ignite some fun!
BBQ Food Hygiene
A barbecue is a big deal in Britain. So no one wants to see a chef with a questionable attitude to food safety by the grill.
Here are a few key tips to grill with food hygiene in mind:
- Thaw frozen meat and food fully before cooking. Proper thawing will prevent dangerous cold spots.
- If you’re using a charcoal barbecue, don’t start cooking until the coals are glowing red with a powdery grey coloured surface. This is when the heat is evenly distributed. It’ll stop your meat being over-charring on the outside and raw inside.
- Cook meat to a minimum core temperature of 70°C for at least 2 minutes.
- Cut into meat to check whether it is cooked; if you have the slightest doubt, use your thermometer – if you don’t have one, cook further until you are sure, just to be safe.
- Hold hot food at a minimum temperature of 63°C until served.
- Be wary if you lean across the barbecue to turn meat – flame grilled sleeves are for rookies.
- Use a coolbox filled with ice packs to minimise bacterial growth on raw or chilled food outside the fridge.
- Don’t leave food out of the refrigerator for longer than half an hour, and don’t leave food in the sun. Hot weather encourages bacteria growth.
- Use separate utensils for raw and cooked meats and ready to eat food, like salads and bread.
- Only eat meat and fish when they are safe to eat. Try stabbing meat, if clear juices come out: you’re safe! Watch out for pink meat and make sure food is piping hot.
Above all, cater for the people coming to your BBQ. Think about dietary preferences & specialist requirements. Many people are vegetarians and vegans and others may be coeliac or have allergies. Equally, if kids are coming, cater to them. These factors will all influence what and how you should cook.
Wait! Avoid Food Waste
With all the excitement of a summer BBQ, there may be a tendency to overestimate the amount of food you need. Don’t worry, though, with our Guide to Reheating Food, you’ll be able to make the most of your leftovers and ensure you’re safe in doing so.
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