Chickens roasting on the BBQ rotisserie

Best Barbecuing Tips For Safe Cooking And Delicious Dishes

Follow our do's and don'ts for safe barbecuing and delicious food

Barbecues, if used without care, can be extremely dangerous, with 1,800 accidents resulting in a trip to A & E in 2002 (last recorded). Most of the serious burns were the result of using an accelerant to light the charcoal. So please consider the potential impacts of your actions and enjoy delicious food safely in your garden this summer. Following a few simple do’s and don’ts could keep you and your family and friends safe and elevate your food from the run-of-the-mill to the extraordinary.

Pizza with Serrano ham and mozzerella cooked on a pizza stone on the barbecue

Pizza with Serrano ham and mozzarella, courtesy of Richard Holden, cooked on the Weber Pizza Stone on a Weber Mastertouch charcoal barbecue

DO's

  • Buy a barbecue a size larger than you think you will need; there’s nothing worse than half the party having eaten their food well before the other half. If the barbecue is too small for the party you will be cooking most of the night and not have time to enjoy the company of your guests.
  • Remove food from the fridge at least 2 – 3 hours before cooking; cooking food at room temperature takes less time and fuel than cold food. It is also more likely to cook through evenly than the outside burning before the centre is cooked.
  • Use a thermometer to check that the food is cooked thoroughly; we recommend the Weber Instant Read Thermometer.
  • Master the methods of direct and indirect cooking. Direct cooking is directly over the coals or gas jets and indirect is at the side of the heat source. Direct is used for cooking small items which can be cooked through on a high heat in a short time whereas indirect is used for larger food items which take longer to cook over a lower heat.
  • Season the food. There are lots of different seasonings to infuse your food with extra flavour; you can marinate them with a huge variety of flavourings, you can flavour them with a dry rub before cooking or you can simply season them well with salt and fresh ground black pepper.
  • Oil the grate. It prevents the food from sticking; don’t use a spray oil as this will cause flare-ups. Dip a pad of kitchen paper in vegetable oil and rub over the grate using a long-handled pair of tongs.
  • Keep utensils for handling raw and cooked food separate to avoid any cross-contamination. Get into a habit of reading left to right; raw on the left and cooked on the right.
  • Keep raw and cooked food separate; raw on the left and cooked on the right.
  • Wash your hands and any work surfaces thoroughly before and after handling raw food.
  • Clean the grate with a wire brush before use as a build-up of burned food only produces an extra source of fuel which can cause flare-ups.
  • Use the right tools for the job to avoid burns; long handled BBQ tongs, wok set, fork, spatula and heat-proof mitts.
  • Use dedicated BBQ lighters and a chimney starter to light a charcoal BBQ. Normal fire lighters give off toxic fumes which could taint your food. NEVER use an accelerant such as petrol or lighter fuel.
  • Take care when putting down the chimney starter after spilling out the coals; it will still be burning hot so will burn grass or decking.
  • Make sure you have spare fuel; there is nothing worse than running out of gas or charcoal half-way through the party.
  • Check the charcoal or briquettes are cold and the gas is off before leaving it for the night.
  • Take care if barbecuing ‘in the wild’ as any sparks could cause a grass or forest fire.
  • If using a disposable BBQ make sure it is cold before throwing it in the bin.
  • Soak flavoured wood chips in water before use as they then smoulder and give off smoke rather than flames, which is possible if they are dry.
  • Wait for the charcoal to reach temperature before starting to cook. Invest in a barbecue with a built-in thermometer.
  • Invest in a small fire extinguisher and make sure it is kept in good working order.

Chicken in white wine and tarragon cooked on the barbecue in the Dutch Oven

Chicken in white wine and tarragon, courtesy of Richard Holden, cooked in the Weber Dutch Oven

DON’Ts

  • Don’t make life too difficult, if you are a novice stick to something simple. Choose foods which will all cook at the same time so that you are not trying to juggle different foods over various cooking heats.
  • Don’t keep turning food over; juices pool on the top of the food, you turn it over and all that moisture and flavour drops into the bottom of the BBQ. When you repeatedly do that you end up with dry tasteless food.
  • Don’t keep slicing into food to check if it is cooked; every time you slice into it the juices run out. Invest in a Weber Instant Read Thermometer.
  • Don’t cook food from frozen; the outside will burn and the inside will be raw which could lead to food poisoning, especially if cooking poultry or shellfish.
  • Don’t baste with a marinade which contains sugar too soon in the cooking process otherwise your food will burn. Wait until about 10 minutes before the end.
  • Don’t keep opening the lid; every time you do the temperature drops which results in a much longer cooking time.
  • Don’t use petrol, lighter fuel or any other flammable liquid to light the coals. They can flare suddenly and cause severe burns; they could also impart a nasty flavour to your food.
  • Don’t turn on the gas with the lid closed.
  • Don’t position the BBQ anywhere near anything which could potentially catch fire; such as hedges, awnings, garden furniture or the house. Make sure it is on a stable surface.
  • Don’t use the barbecue indoors or in a confined space.
  • Don’t wear loose clothing which could fall into the flames.
  • Don’t skimp on the charcoal when lighting the barbecue otherwise you will also have the extra task of adding more fuel and waiting for the temperature to rise before continuing cooking.
  • Don’t use cheap briquettes as a lot of them have toxic accelerants added which will taint your food. They also have cheap fillers added, such as sawdust and chalk dust which doesn’t burn for long and can give off noxious smoke. We recommend using Weber products which are manufactured to give a 2 - 3 hour burn time.  
  • Don’t leave the barbecue unattended, especially if there are children running around.
  • Don’t leave sharp knives where they are accessible to young children; we wouldn’t do it in the kitchen but we seem to think that the BBQ is a more relaxed affair.
  • Don’t feel under pressure from guests to rush; this is when accidents happen.
  • Don’t over-indulge on the alcohol as this also leads to accidents.

Weber heat proof gloves

Weber heat-proof glove

I know there seems to be a lot of warnings of potential hazards and the possibility of a disastrous BBQ party, but most of them are just common sense and you will soon get into the habit of working safely, and you may even start to enjoy the whole experience! 

Angela Slater
Daughter of a farmer and market gardener so have always had a connection with the outdoors, whether it was keeping animals or producing fruit, vegetables and cut flowers. Along with my work at Hayes Garden World I also have a smallholding, mainly breeding rare breed pigs. I gained an HND and BSc in Conservation and Environmental Land Management, as a result I am an ardent environmentalist and have a keen interest in environmentally friendly gardening. In my time at Hayes I worked for several years in the Outdoor Plant and Houseplant areas