The true taste of summer days; Everyone has a barbecue disaster story, but follow a few simple guidelines from Jane Miller and you can enjoy the perfect event.
THE moment we see the first rays of sunshine, we find ourselves rushing to the supermarket to stock up on sausages and burgers, and then it is out into the garden and on with the barbecue.
But before you crack open a can of lager and bung on some sausages, make sure you're not setting you and your family up for a major emergency.
"In a hot summer, around 1,400 people in the UK will go to hospital as a result of barbecue accidents," says Roger Vincent, a spokesperson for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).
"A lot of these will be minor burns, but there can be more serious incidents. There have been some horrendous cases over the years of people using petrol or meths to get the barbecue going, which then blows right up," he warns.
Being safe is not about putting the dampeners on a fun family afternoon or a get-together with friends, but making sure you are not too relaxed about the basics.
"Barbecues should be great fun and hopefully it will be a great summer.
We want people to enjoy themselves, but also follow some simple safety guidelines," says Roger.
"A lot of it is common sense, but the main one to take note of is not using petrol. But, also, make sure your barbecue is stable - if you bang into it and knock it over, then you could have a problem."
He adds: "Spend your afternoon in the garden, not the hospital."
BBQ SAFETY GUIDELINES "Last year, we had that wet summer, so many people won't have used their barbecues for a long time. It's therefore especially important to check that it's in a good condition," says Roger.
"If it's not in good mechanical order, it could collapse and you'll be left with red-hot coals all over your feet."
There are many different types of barbecue on the market, so don't assume you know how they all work.
It's very important to read through and follow the instructions as no two barbecues are the same. "Use it the way it should be used," stresses Roger.
Don't place the barbecue next to a fence or shed, or anything else that could ignite. It should be placed on stable, firm ground, somewhere it is not going to topple over.
Never use flammable liquid such as petrol or meths to light a barbecue.
If you want to use preparatory barbecue lighters, follow the instructions to the letter. Roger says: "The problem is often the changeable weather that we have in this country. It might be a bit damp or a bit wet, and you haven't got the barbecue ready in time. The guests are arriving and you panic and think, 'I'll chuck some petrol on, that will get it going'. Don't do it."
Keep some oven gloves by the barbecue and use them, and make sure you have wooden-handled tools appropriate to the job.
And be sure to take care that children do not play anywhere near the barbecue - not just while you are cooking, but for the remainder of the day.
"Bear in mind that the coals will be extremely hot, even hours after you've finished using it. You could be relaxing with a glass of wine, or chatting to your neighbour over the fence, while a child clatters into the barbecue and knocks it down," says Roger.
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