Cooking for parties and events

When you're making food for large numbers of people it's especially important to keep food safe.

Practical tips

You should remember:

  • try to plan ahead - if you can prepare food before the event starts, this should help to reduce the pressure
  • keep foods out of the fridge for the shortest time possible
  • if you're short of space in the fridge, take out wine and beer, and put it somewhere cold, such as the cellar or garage, or in buckets of ice
  • even if people are waiting to eat, don't reduce cooking times
  • always make sure food is properly cooked before you serve it


Make sure you cook food properly on the barbecue. Whatever you're cooking, keep food safe for friends and family with our food safety tips.

Bugs such as E.coli O157, salmonella and campylobacter can cause serious illness. But you can steer clear of food poisoning by taking some simple steps.

When you're barbecuing, the biggest risk of food poisoning is from raw and undercooked meat.

Cooking barbecued food properly

Always make sure you cook chicken, pork, burgers, sausages and kebabs until they're steaming hot all the way through, none of the meat is pink and any juices run clear.

If you're barbecuing for lots of people, you could cook meat indoors and finish it off on the barbecue for added flavour.

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


  • wait until the charcoal is glowing red, with a powdery grey surface, before you start to cook
  • make sure frozen food is properly thawed before you cook it
  • turn the food regularly, and move it around the barbecue, to cook it evenly
  • check that the centre of the food is steaming hot
  • don't assume that if meat is charred on the outside that it will be cooked properly on the inside

Keep raw meat away from ready-to-eat food

Raw meat can contain food poisoning bugs. So if raw meat touches or drips onto food that is already cooked or ready to eat, the bugs can get onto that food.

Bugs can also transfer onto food from your hands, chopping board, knife or tongs. This is called cross-contamination. You can prevent it by doing the following things:

  • always wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw meat
  • use separate utensils for raw and cooked meat
  • never put cooked food on a plate or surface that has been used for raw meat
  • keep raw meat in a sealed container away from ready-to-eat foods, such as burger buns and salads
  • don't put raw meat products next to cooked or partly cooked meat on the barbecue
  • don't add sauce or marinade to cooked food if it has already been used with raw meat


Keep food cool and safe when you eat outdoors. When you're going on a picnic, don't take food out of the fridge until the last minute and use a cool bag to keep it chilled until you're ready to eat. It's especially important to keep the following foods cool:

  • food containing cream, such as trifle, cream cakes and desserts
  • meat and poultry

Remember to wash fruit and salad vegetables (unless packaging says ‘ready to eat’) thoroughly before you set off. Always try to wash your hands before eating but, if you can't, you could use antiseptic hand wipes instead.

When you're eating outdoors you should also remember to keep food covered whenever possible - this is to protect it from insects, birds and pets, which can carry bacteria.

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