Having a barbecue with family and friends is one of my favorite things to do. While I never had any serious injuries or property damage while grilling, I’ve had a few close calls.
Not everyone is so lucky and every year thousands of people get injured because of grilling related fire hazards.
I decided to put together a guide with the most important grilling safety tips in the hope of preventing some of these accidents.
Read this guide, follow the instructions, and enjoy your barbecue!
Why Grilling Safety is Important
My purpose is by no means to make you worried or stressed about grilling. Yet, the truth is that cooking with open fire comes with certain risks.
Knowing these risks and preparing well to avoid them is a good way to prevent accidents. Also, when you know that everything is in order, you can relax instead of stressing about what could happen.
The National Fire Protection Agency has listed a few important facts about grilling accidents in the United States:
- Almost 20,000 patients go to emergency every year because of grilling related injuries.
- Small children account for about 40% of contact-type burns. These are often caused by kids touching or bumping into grills or hot charcoal.
- Gas grills are involved in almost 9,000 home fires yearly. Gas leaks and broken parts are a common problem.
Grilling should always start with a safely planned set up and a proper grilling area as well as a clean and well-maintained grill.
Take good care of the following steps and you will have much less to worry about while cooking and you can focus more on having fun!
1. Grill Outdoors With Enough Space
You should always grill outdoors. Unless you have a unit suitable for indoor use e.g. Korean BBQ grill or a smokeless indoor grill.
If you are grilling on an enclosed patio, make sure it’s well ventilated. This is important because both propane and charcoal grills produce carbon monoxide, an odorless and lethal gas. So grilling in the garage is unsafe unless you use an electric grill and even then you have to pay attention to keep flammable objects away from the grill.
It’s also a good idea to have enough space around the grill. Having a hot grill too close to wooden structures or anything that catches fire easily is risky.
2. Have a Stable Platform
Place the grill on a stable platform and also make sure that the grill itself is sturdy and steady. You don’t want the grill to tip over because of an uneven platform or loose bolts in the legs.
3. Keep Your Grill Clean
Brush your grill clean every time after using it and perform a more thorough clean-up frequently, at least every 2 months. The old grease that builds up inside the grill can suddenly catch a fire that will burn your food and can also cause a fire hazard.
4. Inspect for Damaged Parts
When you bring out the grill from winter storage, the first thing is to inspect that there are no damaged parts. Pay extra attention to the burners and propane tank.
5. Check for Gas Leaks
If you are using a gas grill, frequently check for leaks as they are a common cause for grill fires.
The easiest way to do this is by preparing a solution of water and dishwashing soap and applying it on the hoses and connecting parts with a brush. Then turn the gas on and look for bubbles.
If you see any, it means there is a leak and you should have it fixed before using the grill.
Here is a great video that shows how to check your grill for gas leaks and other damage:
6. Be Careful with Loose Clothes
I recommend not using loose clothes with long flapping sleeves while grilling, as they can easily catch fire.
Also, be extra careful if you have long hair or beard. It’s best to tie your hair with a ponytail or wear a hat to prevent it from catching the flame.
Starting the Grill
Starting a grill can either be fast and easy or require a bit more effort and skill, depending on what type of grill you are using. Whether you are using a gas or a charcoal grill, there are a few important things to keep in mind.
7. Don’t Spray Lighter Fluid on Hot Coals
So you have a charcoal grill that didn’t light up properly, and you’re thinking about spraying some lighter fluid into the ember to speed things up a bit?
Don’t do it!
I have tried this when I was about 12 years old and ended up burning my eyebrows and lashes.
The best way to light up the charcoal is to use a chimney starter and a few pieces of old newspaper. If you want to use lighter fluid, then always apply it before lighting up the charcoal.
8. Keep the Lid Open
When using a gas grill, always open the lid first before turning on the gas. This allows any excess gas to escape.
If you turn the gas on while the lid is closed, some gas can get trapped inside. If you then open the lid and press the ignition button: BOOM!
All of that gas can light up and burn your face.
Grilling is great fun and one of the best things about it is chatting with your friends while doing it. Yet, you should always keep your focus on the task at hand and not get too carried away with the socializing.
9. Prevent Flare-ups
The best way to deal with flare-ups is to prevent them as much as possible. Trim extra fat from the meat and don’t use too much oily sauces or marinades.
Occasional small flare-ups here and there are part of grilling, so don’t worry about that. But having too many will burn your food and can even cause the fire to get out of control.
If it starts to look alarming, you can move the food away from the flare-up or remove it from the grill for a while.
Infrared grills are excellent options if you want less flare-ups when grilling on gas.
10. Monitor the Grill
When you’re having a nice barbecue party with friends, music, and beer, it’s easy to forget that you should always monitor the grill. This is especially important if there are any risk factors, like heavy wind or kids running around.
11. Be Careful with Kids and Pets
Having a family gathering with a barbecue is one of the best ways to enjoy a nice summer day. Uncles, grandmas, kids, and dogs, all together smiling and having fun.
It’s not uncommon for younger kids and pets to get carried away and forget to be careful around the grill. Make sure to keep a close eye on them so they don’t go too close to the grill and burn themselves or tip the whole thing over.
Also, throwing a football or baseball close by is not the best idea as it might easily fly off course and hit the grill.
12. Be Ready to Distinguish Fire
It’s always good to keep a fire extinguisher close by when grilling. You should also know how to use it properly if needed. Even a water hose or a bucket of water is better than nothing.
If something catches fire and you can’t put it out right away, don’t hesitate to call for the fire department.
Whether you’re grilling with gas or charcoal, it’s always important to shut down the grill properly.
13. Dispose of Charcoal Properly
One common cause for fires is that the used charcoal is carelessly disposed of. Even though it looks like it’s not hot anymore, the ashes can still be glowing inside.
It’s best to leave the ashes in the grill until you are sure that they have cooled down or empty them into a fire-safe metal container.
14. Turn Off the Gas
For a gas grill, remember to turn off the gas from both the grill and the propane tank (or gas line).