Let’s be honest… being pregnant in the summer is hard. It’s hot, sweaty, your feet are swelling, and your new internal radiator did not get the memo.
And the list of what pregnant women shouldn’t eat, drink and do during pregnancy is long enough without adding BBQs to it, so the last thing you want to be left wondering is ‘can I have BBQ when pregnant?’.
What are the risks of having a BBQ when pregnant?
Thankfully, the short answer is… yes! You can scoff all the barbecued food you want when you’re pregnant but, you must make sure it’s been properly prepared, handled and is thoroughly cooked.
There are a few do’s and don’ts for veggies and meat eaters alike – plus a few other tips on keeping safe when barbecuing with friends and family. Read on to find out more (and check out our favourite BBQ recipes and summer mocktails).
The main risk of eating barbecued food when you’re pregnant is food poisoning. Of course, this is always a risk, however, when you’re pregnant, you’re more susceptible to food poisoning and other harmful bacteria. This is because your immune system is focused on protecting your unborn baby and the slightest sign of something untoward could trigger a much stronger response than in non-pregnancy.
Cooking red meat, chicken and fish thoroughly kills any germs – and, with them, the risk of food poisoning - which is why it’s so important if having a BBQ when pregnant.
Food poisoning from salmonella, E. coli or campylobacter bacteria is unlikely to harm your baby. It may make you unwell with diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach cramps, though. It’s advisable to contact your doctor or midwife if you suffer from any of these symptoms just to be sure, however.
Although it’s rare, it’s also possible to get toxoplasmosis, a type of food poisoning caused by a parasite in raw or undercooked meat.
Toxoplasmosis can give you a mild flu-like illness, though it often has no symptoms. It can be dangerous for your developing baby but if you cook meat and fish properly on the barbecue, and practice good hygiene, your food will be safe to eat.
If you’re a vegetarian, you won’t have any of these concerns – just make sure your food isn’t prepared or cooked with raw meat and fish.
An extra tip is to make sure you keep salads in the fridge until you’re ready to eat them too – especially potato and pasta salad. Leaving them out too long could contaminate them with bacteria such as listeria – so make sure you skip them if eating out at and you’ve got no control over this!
How to have a BBQ safely when pregnant
You should always store raw meat or fish carefully in the fridge - usually on the bottom shelf - so that the raw, uncooked juices from it, or any extra marinade, can’t drip on to other food.
Keep raw meat and fish in the fridge and covered until just before you are ready to cook it, and don’t leave food out in the sun where it could get warm and encourage bacteria to grow. It's also important to keep raw and cooked meat separately.
- When you’re preparing BBQ food when pregnant (or any time really), keep raw meat and fish separate from foods that don’t need to be cooked, such as rolls and salads.
- Make sure that frozen food is completely thawed before you cook it. This will reduce cooking time and also ensure that it cooks all the way through.
- Use separate cooking utensils for raw and cooked meat. i.e. don’t use the same tongs you put raw chicken on the heat with to take it back off again.
- Never put cooked food on a plate or surface that has been used for raw meat or fish.
- Wait until the flames have died down and the charcoal is glowing red with a powdery grey surface before putting food on the BBQ. This will cook it more slowly so that it cooks through, rather than burning on the outside and still being raw on the inside.
- Make sure that meat is cooked. until piping hot. Do this even if you’re reheating pre-cooked food on the barbecue and check that none of the meat is pink in the middle. Stick a skewer into the thickest part of the meat to ensure that the juices run clear. If you are particularly nervous, you could also invest in a meat thermometer.
- For clams, mussels, and oysters, watch for the point at which their shells open, which indicates that they’re done. If any are closed after cooking, throw them away.
- Don’t assume that meat or fish that’s charred/burst looking on the outside will be cooked properly on the inside.
- Turn food regularly to cook it evenly but make sure to keep raw and partly cooked meat and fish in separate sections of the barbecue.
- Don’t use marinade or sauce on cooked barbecued food if it has already been used on raw meat or fish.
Consider using the oven (no judgement here!)
- The safest option is to cook meat in the oven, and just finish it off on the barbecue, so it’s thoroughly cooked, but still has that distinct BBQ taste. Put it on the barbecue as soon as it’s out of the oven, though - don’t let it cool down before putting it back on the heat.
- Eat food straight after cooking and don’t leave it out in the sun. Any leftovers should be allowed to cool down to room temperature inside and then put it straight in the fridge or throw it away if you don’t think they’re safe to eat.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after handling raw meat and fish and especially before eating or touching you face and mouth with your hands.
Avoid BBQ fumes
Whilst it’s safe to eat well cooked food on a charcoal BBQ, it’s important to stay away from the smoke. Charcoal barbecues emit carbon monoxide and soot into the air, which can reduce the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream and affect the oxygen in your baby’s cells too.
Foods to avoid at a BBQ when pregnant
The foods to avoid when pregnant at barbecue are the same foods you should be avoiding during the rest of your pregnancy.
- Raw or undercooked meat. As we know, meat should be piping hot and well cooked through.
- Raw shellfish such as oysters.
- Cured meat - like salami, chorizo, pepperoni or Parma ham, unless they’ve been cooked.
- Unpasteurised milk, yoghurt or cheese including Brie, Camembert or veined blue cheeses.
- Swordfish, marlin and shark – these contain mercury which can be harmful to your developing baby. Tuna also contains mercury, so limit your intake.
- Homemade mayonnaise and homemade ice-cream unless they’re made with lion stamped eggs (shop bought is fine)
Shelve the booze at your BBQ
Watching friends and family sipping on a delicious rose wine, or washing down their meal with a cold beer, can be hard to bear during pregnancy – especially on a glorious day when you’re enjoying the sun, a BBQ and the company of loved ones. But we’re sure you know that there is no safe level of alcohol to drink when you are pregnant.
Never fear – we have the perfect solution for you. Mocktails! They’re long, cold and just as yummy as their alcoholic friends. Why not check out our past blog for some of the best mocktails out there – or if you’re in a rush, here’s our favourite for this summer.
1 lemon for twists
Add 2 cups chilled ginger ale
1 cup chilled pomegranate juice
Pour over 1 cup soda water (or more if you prefer)
Stick to the shade
Pregnancy can make your skin more sensitive than usual so try to find a shady spot (and a comfy seat) to prevent you burning. Keep your high factor suntan lotion topped up and wearing a wide brimmed hat is a great idea too. Oh, and make sure you drink plenty of water to keep you and baby hydrated!
Two perfect pregnancy BBQ recipes
Vegan kebabs with avocado dressing
Pile chunks of mushrooms, peaches, courgettes and red onions onto skewers and barbecue them for a wonderful BBQ flavour. Serve with a delicious avocado dressing
- 3½ tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 tsp chilli flakes
- 3 rosemarysprigs, finely chopped
- 4 Portobello mushrooms, each cut into quarters
- 4 peaches, destoned, each cut into quarters
- 2 large courgettes, each cut into 8 chunks
- 2 large red onions, each cut into 8 wedges (leave the root on)
- 1 avocado
- 1 lemon, juiced
- ½ tsp wholegrain mustard
- large bag rocket, watercress and spinach salad
- 2 tbsp toasted mixed seeds
You will need
- 8 metal skewers
Mix 3 tbsp oil with the crushed garlic, chilli flakes and rosemary. Thread alternate pieces of mushroom, peach, courgette and red onion onto each skewer – you can get two pieces of everything on each. Brush the kebabs with the flavoured olive oil and season with salt and black pepper, then set aside. The kebabs can be made the day before and kept in the fridge.
Heat the barbecue or a grill to its highest setting. Meanwhile, blitz the avocado, half the lemon juice and 50ml water to a smooth dressing and season to taste. Whisk the remaining lemon juice, remaining ½ tbsp olive oil and mustard together, then toss with the mixed rocket salad and toasted seeds.
Barbecue or grill the skewers for 4-5 mins on each side or until cooked through and nicely charred. Pile onto a platter and serve with the avocado dressing and salad on the side.
Jamie Oliver Black & blushing Worcestershire fillet with fragrant fresh rosemary
- 600-700 piece of fillet steak
- 2 heaped teaspoons French mustard
- 8-10 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce , plus extra for drizzling
- a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil , plus extra to serve
- 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- TO COOK
- unsalted butter
- olive oil
- thyme and rosemary flowers , optional
- The day before, or at least a few hours before cooking, put all the ingredients in a large sandwich bag (pick and finely chop the rosemary first).
- Squeeze out the air then spend a few minutes massaging all the flavours into the meat. Put in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.
- About 1½ hours before you’re ready to cook, remove the beef from the fridge and place in a cool corner of the kitchen to come up slowly to room temperature.
- Preheat your barbecue. Put a few knobs of chilled butter into a bowl of cold water and take those outside with you when you’re ready to cook.
- This next bit is going to be down to you and your intuition. What Jamie recommends is taking the fillet out of the bag, quickly patting it with kitchen paper then rolling it in olive oil and putting it on the hottest part of the barbecue to give it colour. Rub it with a chilled knob of butter as you cook it for about 8 to 10 minutes, turning every minute.
Once it looks good, move the fillet to a cooler part of the barbecue to finish cooking to your liking. Another 4 to 5 minutes, turning every minute, should give you medium-done meat. You may like to eat the outer slices of beef – just to be extra cautious in pregnancy.
- When you’re happy, put it on a platter, rub it again with butter so it really shines, then drizzle over more Worcestershire sauce, extra virgin olive oil, and thyme and rosemary flowers, if you have them.
- Let the meat rest for a few minutes, before slicing at the table. Season from a height then quickly rub the slices in the juices before you let everyone grab some.
Speak to your midwife about any concerns
Always tell your GP if you think you have food poisoning in pregnancy. If you are concerned or are ever unsure about what foods are and aren’t safe to use during your pregnancy, then it’s always a good idea to speak to your midwife who will be able to give you the most up-to-date advice for you and your baby.