The summer is nearly here and it appears alfresco food has taken a significant rise in popularity (thanks to the sunny weather we have recently had) with many food outlets taking a barbecue out of storage and serving hot and cold foods in gardens, parks and yards.
Outdoor cooking and eating is often thought of as being linked to outbreaks of sickness and as such careful attention to detail is needed, whether it is for barbecue food or simply buffets. STS guides you through the pitfalls and gives you simple but effective controls to make your food safe.
It is very easy to serve undercooked foods from a barbecue due to the nature of flames burning the external surfaces of meats such as chicken and making them “look” cooked. You should therefore make sure that all foods are pre-cooked in the main kitchen before being placed on the barbecue for finishing off to get that barbecue flavour. If food is not to be cooked immediately, store it chilled until required.
Ensure that raw food placed on the barbecue does not contaminate food already cooked or that juices from raw food do not fall onto ready to eat foods. It is also best practice to have a system of moving food from one side to the other as it cooks, for example, raw food placed on at the left and cooked food off at the right.
Make sure that you use a probe thermometer to check that the food is cooked to above 75oC. As with all cooked foods, probe the thickest part of the item. Remember to have probe wipes available for use.
Make sure that all utensils and food containers are kept clean and that they are replaced immediately if dropped. Also, make sure that you have a set of tongs for cooked food and a set for uncooked/unfinished food. These should be clearly colour-coded or easily identified for each use. Never use the same tongs for raw and cooked foods.
Remember the need for hand washing and if the barbecue is remote from facilities temporary facilities may need to be provided. Wear clean protective clothing. If possible have different personnel handling the raw and the cooked foods.
You should make sure that foods are kept covered before and after cooking to avoid insects landing on the food items. Ensuring that foods are served quickly is also really important.
Prepare all your buffet items in the kitchen. Do not change your normal procedures and make sure that you prepare such foods outside in the sun. Normal kitchen food safety controls should be maintained.
Store all salad items and sandwich fillings in fridges until they are needed for service. You really should avoid displaying the food on tables in the sun. If you are having an outdoor buffet, bring the food out in cool boxes and leave it out for as short a time as possible. As with all food, keep it covered at all times.
Remember that just because you are cooking and serving food in a different location does not mean that you no longer need to check temperatures and keep records. Therefore ensure that food handlers remember to record cooked and reheated food temperatures as normal.
For more guidance on outdoor events and street parties, visit the Food Standards Agency website.