THE barbecue season represents a major opportunity for pubs and restaurants but it can be undermined unless chefs and operators tackle the food safety challenges that go with it.
That’s the warning from The Big Kitchen, a supplier of cooked, frozen and chilled meat products to the foodservice industry.
Cooking food outwith the sterile kitchen environment brings its own set of challenges for caterers, according to the company’s commercial director Jonathan Ashmore. The variable heat and temperature of a barbecue only adds to the pressure, he said.
“Everybody loves a barbecue and it is a fantastic business opportunity for the foodservice industry – but there is a downside for caterers because barbecues also represent a major challenge in terms of food safety,” he said.
“Popular barbecue foods such as sausages can be difficult enough to cook at the best of times on a standard cooker but preparing them on a barbecue is even more challenging.
“Another factor adding to the pressures facing caterers is that customers are used to fast delivery times and so expect their food to be served up very quickly.
“This cannot always be achieved on a busy barbecue, especially with raw meat.”
Given the challenges, Jonathan reckons there is an opportunity for some caterers to switch to pre-cooked meat products.
“This approach also allows caterers to reduce preparation times, as the products need just a few minutes to be heated, while guaranteeing a consistent result for customers,” he explained.
“Another major benefit of using pre-cooked items is that it makes food preparation much simpler and can speed up the level of service.
“This has advantages for caterers in terms of the number of staff needed and their level of skills which can ultimately help reduce costs.
“The barbecue season is a huge opportunity for caterers because nothing beats a great barbecue on a summer’s day but, at the same time, the risk of food poisoning is significant when you are catering outdoors. This is something that caterers need to face up to if they want to make their barbecue memorable for the right reasons.”
(Top image: The variable heat and temperature of a barbecue can add to the challenges of al fresco cooking. Above right: The Big Kitchen supplies a range of cooked, frozen and chilled meat products.)