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Top tips for barbecuing chicken safely

19 May 2014

With barbecue season just around the corner, people all over the country will be getting out the grill but cooking outdoors shouldn’t mean correct food preparation habits go up in smoke.

Chicken on a barbecue
Make sure chicken is steaming hot all the way through before serving

Cooking on a barbecue should often be treated with caution, as having less control over the temperature food is being cooked at can create more risks, especially when cooking meat.

Here are some of our top tips for barbecuing chicken, which is the focus of this year’s campaign.

Last year more than 1,000 people were so ill because of food poisoning from the mishandling or undercooking of chicken that they ended up needing hospital treatment. What’s more, the bacteria spread by contaminated chicken, campylobacter, is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK. In fact, Campylobacter causes more cases of food poisoning than E. coli, listeria and salmonella put together.

The main ways to get campylobacter poisoning or to spread campylobacter is through mishandling or washing raw chicken. People over the age of 55 are most likely to wash raw chicken before cooking it – in fact half of over-55s do. Rather than ‘cleaning’ the chicken, washing it actually spreads the germs and makes cross-contamination more likely.

So, when dusting off your barbecue this summer, make sure you know the facts. Help protect yourself and your family from food poisoning bugs such as campylobacter by following these simple tips:

Top tips for avoiding food poisoning when preparing and barbecuing chicken

1) Cover and chill raw chicken

Cover raw chicken and store it at the bottom of the fridge so juices cannot drip on to other foods and contaminate them with food poisoning bacteria such as campylobacter.

2) Don’t wash raw chicken

Cooking thoroughly will kill any bacteria present, including campylobacter, while washing chicken can spread germs by splashing.

3) Marinate meat safely

Marinate meat and poultry in the refrigerator, not at room temperature. Don’t re-use the marinade, or pour over cooked meat, unless it’s also been thoroughly cooked first.

4) Plan ahead if you're barbecuing for a large group

If you're barbecuing for lots of people, cook the meat or poultry in the oven and then finish it off on the barbecue for flavour.

5) Wash used utensils

Thoroughly wash and clean utensils, chopping boards and surfaces used to prepare raw chicken. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after handling raw chicken.

6) Cook chicken thoroughly

Make sure chicken is steaming hot all the way through before serving. Cut in to the thickest part of the meat and check that it is steaming hot with no pink meat and the juices run clear.

7) Reheating on the barbecue

If you reheat food on the barbecue, make sure it's steaming hot all the way through before serving.

For more information:


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.