Approximately seven out of every ten adults in the U.S. have a grill or smoker. While it may seem pretty straightforward, using grills the wrong way can result in serious injury or loss of property. But, grilling can be enjoyable, delicious, and safe if you keep these few tips in mind this upcoming Labor Day weekend (and beyond).
Location location location
Where you put your grill is just as important as how you use it. Grills belong outside. Never use a grill indoors- they expel carbon monoxide, a toxic, odorless, colorless gas. Not to mention that any nearby structures like your home, overhangs, decorations, etc. can quickly catch fire from the high heat (and flame) and spread out of control. Put the grill 10 feet away from any structures, on a flat surface. Keep an eye out for trees above, too. If weather doesn’t permit grilling, you can use an indoor grill pan, which is safe for indoor utility.
Never leave unattended
Grilling often accompanies having larger groups of people around. This can quickly become a situation where somebody inadvertently leans onto or bumps into a hot grill. If children are around, the risk is even higher- curiosity and lack of understanding of the danger can result in some serious burns. Children under five accounted for an average of 2,000 or 39%, of the contact-type burns per year.
To help prevent any injury, never leave the grill unattended. If you have to step away, ask an undistracted adult to stand guard and keep an eye on things for you.
Staying nearby isn’t enough though- make sure you’re alert. Almost half of grilling accidents happen between the hours of 5-8 p.m., and it may not be a coincidence that is is usually the time when the drinks start to flow at gatherings. As when operating any other dangerous tool, limit or avoid alcohol consumption to prevent any unfortunate accidents.
Cleaning the grill regularly will keep your food from sticking to the grill. And, it also helps prevent dangerous flare ups from grease and food build up from previous grilling sessions. Clean your charcoal or gas grill after each use with a grill brush and empty the grease tray when it begins to fill up.
Start up the grill the right way
Lighting your grill with a closed lid can cause a dangerous buildup of gas, creating a fireball. To avoid this, keep the gas grill lid open when lighting it. If the flame goes out at any time while grilling, turn the grill and gas off, and wait at least five minutes before relighting.
When using a charcoal grill, don’t automatically reach for the lighter fluid. It sure does get the coals going, but it’s also easy for the coals to get out of control. Spraying the already-lit coals with fluid to get them hotter, faster? That can also lead to dangerous flare ups. Besides, who wants their food to taste like lighter fluid? To help get the charcoal going, use a charcoal starter (also called a charcoal chimney), to light the coals and get them prepped. Watch this video from Southern Living to learn how they work:
Avoid grilling too much at once
More food on the grill means more grease buildup and potential for flares. Cooking in smaller batches helps control the potential for a sudden flare up, and is also suggested that you try cooking in zones as a way to get better results.
Be prepared for a fire
Fires move fast, so it’s important to be prepared. Have baking soda on hand to control a grease fire and a fire extinguisher nearby for other fires. Having the fire extinguisher isn’t enough- make sure you’re familiar with how to use it. Fire extinguishers need to be recharged periodically. To check where in the Tucson area you can have your extinguisher recharged, read here.
Remember, while you can use a small spray bottle while grilling to douse tiny flare ups, you never use water to put out a grease fire.
When you’re done, close up
As soon as you’re done cooking, turn off the burners on your gas grill and close down the propane supply. If you’re using charcoal, close the air vents to shut off the air supply to the embers. Then, let the coals cool completely before disposing in a metal container. Wait until the grill has cooled before relocating it to its storage location or covering it.
Grilling is a fantastic way to prepare food. With some precaution, grilling can be safe and enjoyable. If you would like a quick reference to some of these tips, reference the image below.
-NFPA’s Applied Research
Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA)
Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, April 20