Summertime, And The Cooking Is Easy, Or Is It?

 By: David Abernathy
Every home owner loves a barbecue, and as the summer starts in earnest there's nothing better than enjoying a back yard cook-out with friends and family. But all too often, the fun can be ruined, thanks to a lack of simple planning and preparation.

First of all, if your propane or natural gas barbecue has been out of action during the cooler months make sure you inspect your equipment well in advance of firing it up. Clean all burner ports, to allow a free flow of gas. Check the hose too, to ensure that there are no cracks or leaks. If you are unsure about any parts of your equipment, it is well worth considering replacing them to avoid unnecessary accidents. And, make sure that you only use your barbecue in a well ventilated space outdoors, and that it is placed on a flat, secure surface.

Once you're happy that all the gear is good to go and you are ready to start cooking, spend a few moments re-familiarizing yourself with some basic food hygiene tips. Nothing ruins a family barbecue like a bout of illness as the direct result of badly prepared or undercooked food.

Firstly, make sure that all meat products are kept refrigerated until you are ready to cook them, and thoroughly defrost any frozen products before cooking. Also, keep raw meats away rom all other food types, to prevent bacterial contamination. Simple cleanliness, such as making sure that your hands, cutting boards and cooking utensils are washed, in advance of coming into contact with meat products, will help reduce the risks considerably. If you are cooking non-meat products such as vegetarian burgers or fish on the barbecue, keep them well separated.

When barbecuing meat, make sure that it is cooked thoroughly. A blackened or well-browned burger doesn't necessarily mean that it's cooked through, so always keep a food thermometer close to hand. Again, to prevent potential cross-contamination, wash the thermometer after each time you use it.

While it may be tempting to enjoy a nice cool beer or glass of chilled wine while at the helm of the good-ship barbecue, many an accident has occurred as a result of drinking and grilling. Remember to take it steady, or better still, wait until all the food has been cooked before treating yourself to an alcoholic drink.

As with all potentially dangerous apparatus, it is essential to keep children and animals away from hot barbecues. Serious burns and other injuries are very real threats, and can be easily avoided. While cooking, wear appropriate clothing such as an apron and oven gloves, and make sure that loose clothing and long hair are kept well clear of open flames. Also, keep a fire-blanket or domestic fire extinguisher close to hand, just in case your barbecue gets a little lively!

A barbecue can be one of the most enjoyable aspects of the summer season, and with just a little preparation and thought, we can easily make sure that it remains that way.
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