While you probably love spending time around the grill when the summer comes, you should be warned that there are some pretty scary statistics regarding fires and accidents due to the use of grills.
In fact, according to the National Fire Protection Agency, every year, there is an average of 8,900 home fires related to grills every year, of which 3,900 structure fires and 4,900 outdoor fires. And for the last 5 years, an average of 19,700 people ended up in the emergency rooms as a result of grill-related accidents, of which 2,000 were children under the age of 5 with burns.
Here are some safety tips which will help minimize these risks and make the grilling a truly enjoyable experience for yourself, your family, friends, and your neighbors.
Always use propane and charcoal grills outdoors
This may seem like an obvious one, but perhaps some people don’t get what an outdoor space means. The grill which uses open flame fuels should be placed and used outdoor only, rather than using it in a garage or under a covered patio or balcony.
Open flame grills can have flare-ups and can spit sparks which, needless to say, is dangerous when there is furniture, carpeting, and other flammable objects and materials nearby.
Also, burning charcoal indoors is dangerous and can be toxic and even deadly due to the carbon monoxide emitted during the burning.
So, make sure you place the grill in an area where there is plenty of space around and above it and where there is proper ventilation.
Make sure there is enough space around the grill
As we mentioned previously, you need to make sure that the grill has sufficient space all around it, which means away from flammable furniture, carpeting, fences, awnings, walls, and branches.
Avoid placing the grill right next to your house, where it can be a serious fire hazard, especially if it has a wood structure. Make sure that you situate the grill at least 10 feet away from any structures, including your home.
Check if your grill is stable
A wobbly grill is a dangerous grill.
Make sure that your grill is placed on a stable and flat surface before lighting it up and using it.
This will help reduce the risk of the grill tipping over and burning somebody or setting a fire.
It is advisable to place the grill on a concrete or paved leveled surface, but if you do not have such a surface, you may want to invest in a grill mat.
Safe distance for children and pets is a must
As we all know, kids and pets are hard to control around potentially dangerous objects, so make sure that you keep any children and pets safely away from the grill.
As mentioned before, the statistics show that about 38% of grill burns for a year happen to children under the age of five.
Keep the grill out of the play and socializing area, and never leave your children or pets unsupervised during the grilling or when walking around with a scorching hot tray of food.
Regular grill cleaning
Keeping the grill clean is not only necessary to keep it sanitary and to look good. Regular cleaning of the grill will also make it safer to use. By removing the debris from the food, and the greases, you will reduce the risk of flare-ups happening next time you use it.
So, to stay on the safe side, make sure you clean up the grill after each use.
Keep an eye on the grill
While we all can get caught in the moment when having a beer and enjoying a fun conversation with a friend, but if you have decided to be a pitmaster for an event, you should remember that you are responsible for keeping an eye on the grill at all times.
Don’t just wander off, leaving the grill burning and alone.
Also, make sure that as pitmaster, you don’t wear long and wide sleeves, hanging strings, and other clothing which can dangle over the flames and catch fire.
Open the lid before starting your gas grill
Never ever attempt to light your gas grill with its lid closed!
By keeping the lid open when starting the burners, you will allow any of the excess gas released to escape.
A closed lid can cause a dangerous buildup of pressure due to the buildup of gas and can suddenly combust once the lid is opened and the oxygen is let in.
To stay on the safe side when using a gas grill, make sure that you regularly check it for any leaks. The easiest way to do it is to cover any hoses and connections with some water with dish soap and then turn the gas on. If there is a leak somewhere, large bubbles will be formed.
Start your charcoal grill with a charcoal chimney
Charcoal chimneys are very useful for starting the coals and measuring them, and they are safer as they don’t require the use of lighter fluids and other accelerants. Plus, with a charcoal chimney, you will be lighting an easy-to-control quantity of a few coals rather than lighting a whole pile.
Remember that the smoke and heat will come up from the chimney, so make sure there are no obstructions or people above it.
After starting the fire, keep the hot chimney out of reach by children and others until it cools down.
Lighter fluid should never be applied to hot coals
Never squirt lighter fluid on top of hot coals because this could cause a sudden flare-up which can easily grow into a big fire. Plus, the flame can move back up the stream of the lighter fluid to your hand and can cause severe burns too.
So, remember to pour the lighter fluid on your coals before you proceed to light them, or use a charcoal chimney, and don’t use lighter fluid at all.
Shut down the grill properly
Unfortunately, a large number of the fires which have been related to the use of grills are caused by not shutting down the grill properly. This can mean leaving the charcoal hot, not disconnecting the propane tank and moving it away from the gas grill, not closing all the valves and burner dials, and others.
If you have a charcoal grill, allow the ashes and hot coal to cool down for about 48 hours before attempting to throw them away and clean the grill out.
Have a plan in case of a fire emergency
You have probably taken part in a fire drill at some point in your life. You will need to create your own fire drill and emergency plan in case of a fire at home too. This will eliminate the panic, and the time you will spend wondering how to act if the grill suddenly starts a fire.
For gas grills, you should know where the emergency cut-off of the grill is at all times.
It is recommended that you keep a fire extinguisher and, of course, test it and know how to use it near the grill. You can also keep a spray bottle with water next to the grill so you can extinguish smaller flare-ups as soon as they appear.
Beware of flare-ups
As mentioned time and time again, one of the biggest risks of using a grill is the potential flare-ups.
Flare-ups usually are a result of grease or food getting in contact with the open flame.
If a flare-up occurs, you need to act immediately by removing the food from the grill using long tongs and then use the lid to smother the flare-up.
As recommended, it can help to keep a spray bottle with water beside the grill so you can extinguish smaller flames immediately.
A good quality fire extinguisher is a must, but you also need to check it regularly and also make sure that you and whoever else will be using the grill know exactly how to use it.
Keep the grill clean in order to eliminate flare-ups from leftover grease and residue on the grates and the grill.
You can also check our dedicated article on how to put out a charcoal grill in 5 easy steps.
Learn more about food safety
As with any type of meat cooking, preparing the meat to the proper safe temperature is essential to prevent food poisoning, infections from bacteria and parasites, and other potential problems from eating undercooked meat.
Since temperatures on grills are less consistent than those in ovens, you should use a reliable meat thermometer and check the internal temperature of the meat in different places.
You should check the recommended safe cooking temperature for the type of meat or fish you are preparing, and then you can monitor the internal temperature until it reaches the doneness level you prefer.
Once it is cooked, keep the food at safe temperatures before it is served as well.
Also, make sure you avoid cross-contamination between raw meat or fish and ready food or other foods you are prepping. This is easily done by using different tongs, cutting boards, and utensils when handling them.
While grilling is not a risky activity, it does involve some potential dangers which are associated with any other appliance or tool which uses an open flame.
Hopefully, by following the above simple rules, you will stay safe and keep the people and buildings around you safe every time you are grilling or smoking your favorite food.
Good luck, enjoy the summer, and stay safe!