Grilling is a great way to get outside, enjoy some sunshine, and have a delicious dinner all at the same time. But grilling safety should never be overlooked. Home grill accidents account for thousands of fires each year, and most could have been avoided by following some simple guidelines. Here are seven tips you need to know before firing up your grill this weekend.
Follow these seven safety rules when you're using your gas or charcoal grill so that everyone can stay safe and have fun during this weekend's big backyard feast!
Safe Placement of Your Grill
The most important step to safe grilling is the placement of your grill. Fire can quickly get out of hand, especially when you and other objects are too close. You may want to stand in the shade while grilling or have an awning for protection from heat and direct sunlight, but having anything nearby that might catch on fire should be avoided. Embers can quickly ignite dry leaves, brush, woods, or structures as well.
Consult your user manual for minimum safe distances and equip yourself with the appropriate safety gear, ensuring your private space is clear of any potential hazards. It's essential to give a good look at all equipment, imagining the worst-case scenario for fire. Keep your grill away from anything flammable like trees, shrubs, and house siding. Remember to be mindful of hot surfaces when children are around as well.
Keep Your Grill Clean
Make sure that your grill has been cleaned before cooking on it. Any amount of grilling will accumulate grease, food particles, and burnt ash inside the grill. If you're a grilling enthusiast, then the danger from a dirty grill will be multiplied. Any grease and debris inside your grill is flammable and creates dangerous flare-ups that constitute a significant cause of fires in grilling accidents.
At a minimum, the grill grates need to be cleaned with a wire brush before and after every use. The burners, barriers, and grease traps need to be cleaned and emptied every month or whenever there is a significant accumulation.
Using Fuel Safely
Accidents happen with both gas and charcoal grills. While gas grills are generally safer, they still require caution and inspection before use. The number one cause of gas grill fires is an obstruction in the fuel path by debris or bugs. Do routine inspections of burners, tubes, hoses, and the gas line or propane tank when cooled down to ensure safe grilling conditions.
Charcoal and solid fuel grills are the cause of far more fires than gas grills. The number one problem with charcoal fires is getting them started. Accelerants like lighter fluid are a dangerous trade-off for the time saved, and they leave chemical fumes and contaminates that can get on the food. Disposing of built-up ash and coals and using a chimney starter or natural kindling to start the fire are the best practices when grilling with solid fuels.
Create A Distraction-Free Zone
Grilling can be a social event where everyone pitches in to help, but it's essential for the cook not to get distracted. One moment of distraction is all that it takes for fires and accidents to happen. The cook should be of clear mind and focused while cooking with no distractions from alcohol or other substances.
Equally important is keeping a clean workstation. Having plenty of counter space on the grill island or setting up a small folding table with freestanding grills will keep you from haphazardly juggling ingredients, utensils, and equipment while grilling.
Don't Leave the Grill
Everyone wants to be outdoors when the weather is nice, but it is crucial to keep the grilling area free from traffic and playing. Restrain kids and pets from playing near the grill; it's too easy for them to bump into or touch a part of the hot grill. Keep guests at least three feet away from cooking surfaces, even after you are finished cooking, so everyone can enjoy themselves without having any injuries happen.
When you do have to step away, keep it short, and never leave a lit grill with the lid off. Children, pets, surprise flare-ups, wind-blown leaves, debris - any number of things can happen while you're not there, so close the lid on the grill and keep a close eye on it for any potential problems.
When a flare-up happens, fire moves fast, so it's vital to be prepared. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby the grilling area at all times. Remember, you never use water to put out a grease fire. A dry-chemical fire extinguisher is essential wherever natural gas or propane is used for fuel as water can damage the appliance and make the fire emergency worse. Baking soda can be used as a backup when there is a grease fire.
We hope you will never have to use the fire extinguisher, but you need to know it will work if required. Proper training and yearly inspection of extinguishers will ensure their operation and bring peace of mind to you and your family. Rehearse proper usage with any other chefs and family members, so they fully understand how the extinguisher works and how to operate it. It is also prudent to know how to cut the fuel lines and call the fire department in an emergency.
Read Your User Manual
Please read the manual for specific instructions on using your grill in an efficient manner that follows all of the manufacturer's guidelines. These guidelines vary significantly between brands based on the materials and construction of the grill. The manufacturers' websites can be helpful when it comes time to finding manuals specifically for your model of smoker or gas/charcoal grill.
When the manual is limited or missing, researching videos and posts online is a helpful way to find out what you need to know. From barbecue experts to hobbyists, there is plenty of information about properly using and maintaining a safe grilling space. Once you've done your research and have a good idea of how your model should perform, it's time to get cooking!
Let's Start Grilling!
Grilling is a tradition that unifies families, friends, and communities around great food and good company. While grilling does come with risks, it only takes some diligence and awareness to provide a safe environment. With these seven grilling safety tips, you should be able to stay safe while you have fun during your next cookout.