We’ve all been to a BBQ where there’s a slightly undercooked bit of chicken, the sausages look like Winston Churchill’s cigars or the chef (let’s call Mr. BBQ that) has had a few too many tipples and all the shades of well done are being served up in little carcinogenic packages.
Not sure about you, but my stomach just groaned in a feed me kinda way!
BBQ’s are a staple of the English summer. That’s not to say it’s just if it’s sunny. Many times I’ve been under a Marquee at a friend’s or carefully moved the BBQ so the lid is within easy reach of cover. Hell, we had a birthday party where the bouncy castle was like a water park. We still had fun.
The weather can put a dampener on your mood but the one thing that is guaranteed to kill the meat-loving BBQ atmosphere quicker than a meat-hating Vegan is food poisoning! Yep, we’ve all probably had it at one time or another and I bet you’ve not forgotten it.
Food poisoning was actually one of the things that bonded my wife together, not literally after catching severe stomach bugs in Egypt. Cheers love if you’re reading this.
It’s not just BBQs, any open fire or even kitchen cooking has the potential to be the wrong side of safe it’s just a lot easier to heat control in a kitchen.
Now I’m not going to say I was awestruck, however, the fabulous Richard Holden, BBQ God, shared some of his time and wisdom up at John Waites kitchen, in an attempt to turn my from Wimpy to Burger King 🙂
The first thing we did was banish some myths and set the ground rules:
- No accelerant – petrol or fire gel etc. There was this amazing little charcoal light tube thingy. Got the coals all going with a couple of tries and was just left in the BBQ until ready. Genius!
- All charcoals are different, especially cheap ones – Briquettes or lumpwood? Pre-soaked in fuel or eco? There’s such a wide range and then the difference in bags can be huge. Cheap means cheap and there’s no quality control. You wouldn’t cook an amazing steak on a dodgy cooker.
- Flames are your enemy – Shock horror! I thought the flames cooked the food but apparently all they do is burn the outside. Maybe Burger King’s flamed grilled have it wrong.
- Use two sets of tongs – It’s all well and good being a great chef with perfectly cooked food, but if you’re then flinging it around with raw meat tongs you may as well not even bothered.
- Use an onion and veg oil to grease up the BBQ – Again, simple to hear but why did I never do that. Great flavour and non-stick
- If you go to move the food off the grill and it sticks, it’s probably not done – A reaction in the fat means that when it’s at a good temperature the food will lift perfectly. A nice little indicator there.
Last and most important.
- Your food is only cooked safely when it’s at the right temperature not when it looks right or feels hot on the outside – Biggest mistake I make is this one and it’s probably one of the worst. Flaming up some sausages cooks the outside quickly but I have many a times, cold pork on taking a bite! Naughty.
This event was run in conjunction with Thermapen and I got my first opportunity to use probe wipes, and of course, learn how to safely BBQ food without the flames! (This is a new experience for me)
Prior to the cook-off, they went through some research that they had commissioned which suggested that people are undercooking burgers (14%) and overcooking chicken (28%). I’ll agree with that!
What’s more obvious now is that over 80% of people surveyed did not know the correct internal minimum temperature for cooking a burger (70°C)[remained at temp for 2 minutes] and over 80% did not know the correct minimum temperature for cooked chicken (74°C).
In response to these stats, barbecue master chef Richard Holden says, “as a nation we ,still have a lot to learn about what it is to successfully barbecue, and a lot of it comes down to temperature.”
“The first piece in the puzzle is to cook at the right temperature – too much heat and your food is cooked on the outside and raw in the middle, not enough heat and your food is cooked through but missing the gorgeous caramelised exterior that excites the eyes and the taste buds!”
“The second piece is knowing the correct core temperature of food, so food is both cooked and safe to eat. When I’m teaching my classes, I give my students a simple saying to ensure food safety: 75, stay alive. Meats cooked to a core temperature of 75°C will ensure that all harmful bacteria are destroyed. This is critical for high risk foods such as chicken and minced products like sausages and burgers. I never serve food without quickly checking the core temperature and a Thermapen is the easiest and most reliable way of doing that.”
“Food that is cooked properly while retaining its natural flavour and succulence would put British BBQ on the map, and using a thermometer is part of that picture!”
With only 29% of British adults are using a thermometer to make sure their barbecued food is cooked properly there is a big opportunity to increase awareness and tools. The Thermapen that we used while cooking was remarkably easy to get the hang of with two little additions to note:
-The thermapen probe needs to go in to the thickest big of the meat (takes the longest to cook). Turn the thin bits away from the heat if they’re done.
– Use probe wipes to ensure you’re not transferring bacteria from piece of meats.
One of the cardinal rules that I wasn’t taught on the day is something that I’ll always remember!
The table was set, cheese, salads, drinks, buns cut and guests ready to eat. I turned the BBQ up to max to burn off old food, gave it a clean with a wire brush and opened my steak burgers ready to go. As you can see from the picture above, we had all the temperatures on lock down and the feeling of hunger was just starting.
The gas run out. Do not let the gas run out 🙂
So thanks to Thermapen for the event, I learnt a lot and the Thermapen has been used on multiple BBQs but actually just as much in the kitchen especially when cooking steak. Anybody that can cook this Pavlova Roll on a BBQ must know what they’re talking about.
Enjoy the beautiful weather and remember to stay safe, nobody wants a dodgy burger no matter how many beers they’ve had!