A gas barbecue grill is a great way for your family and friends to enjoy outdoor cooking. But according to the US Fire Administration, barbecue fires severely injure about 6,500 people each year, and cause over $27 million in property damage. This article and video provides gas grill safety tips that will help keep you, your grill, your food, and your home all safe.
Let’s start by looking at grill safety . . . which includes both operating the grill safely, and personal and child safety:
Operating the grill safely
Here are some tips for operating your grill safely:
- Open the lid prior to lighting the grill. This is to prevent any buildup of gas.
- Be careful of gas trapped under lava rocks. If you poke the lava rocks as soon as you light the fire, it may result in releasing pockets of flammable gas.
- Keep the grill stable. Be sure that all parts of the grill are firmly in place and that the grill is stable and can’t be tipped over.
- Never leave a grill unattended once lit. A grill is a source of burns and should have someone watching it whenever it is hot. In addition, dripping fats from food may cause a flare-up, which will need to be quickly contained.
- Never move a hot grill. It’s easy to stumble into or tip over when trying to move a hot grill, and serious burns can result.
- Be careful when using the side burners. Never use the side burner in windy conditions. And never leave it unattended. If the burner goes out, turn burner knobs to the full OFF position and let it air out. Do not attempt to use the side burner until the gas has had time to dissipate. And when your side burner is not in use, turn off the gas supply at its tank.
- Follow electric codes when using rotisseries, etc. Be sure they are properly grounded in accordance with local codes. Electrical cords should be placed away from walkways or anywhere people can trip over them.
- Turn the burner on “high” for 5 minutes when finished. This will help burn off grease and other drippings.
- Turn off gas supply. And lastly, in addition to turning off the knob on the front of the grill, when you are finished cooking, you should also turn off the gas at the supply source.
Personal and child safety
Next, let’s look at personal and child safety tips for around your gas grill:
- Keep people away from a hot grill.People, especially children should be kept at least 3 feet away from the grill. And remember that the grill body remains hot up to an hour after being turned off.
- Avoid high traffic areas. Placing your grill in a walkway or other heavy traffic area is asking for an accident to happen.
- Wear safe clothing. Be sure that the clothing you wear does not have long hanging sleeves, floppy shirt tails, frills, or apron strings that can catch fire. And use flame-retardant mitts when adjusting your grill.
- Use long-handled grilling utensils. Use barbecue forks, tongs, etc. with long handles to avoid burns and splatters on your hands and arms.
- Keep a fire extinguisher handy. In case of a small flare-up, you can use baking soda to control a small grease fire. But in case of a large grill fire, you should keep a fire extinguisher nearby. If you don’t have a fire extinguisher, then keep a bucket of sand near your grill. If you do ever need to use a fire extinguisher on your grill, then be sure to wash your grill thoroughly afterward.
- Avoid drinking and smoking near the grill. Just like drinking and driving don’t mix, neither does drinking and grilling. Also, spilling alcohol on the grill can cause a flare-up. And because of the possibility of gas leaks, keep cigarettes, lighters, and matches away from your gas grill, regardless of whether or not the grill is in use.
- Avoid breathing smoke from the grill. And lastly, inhaling the barbecue smoke is hazardous to your health.
We all know that barbecued food tastes great, but now let’s look at some food safety tips when cooking on your grill:
Wash your hands before, during and after food preparation. Since bacteria can easily transfer from your hands to foods and surfaces, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after switching tasks. This is especially important after handling raw meat. If soap and water are not readily available, then keep moist towelettes or a hand sanitizer handy.
Prepare the food before grilling:
Marinate meats for at least 12 hours, as this will significantly reduce the amount of cancer-risking heterocyclic amines that are formed when grilling. Always marinate meat in the refrigerator. And trim the fat from meats, as this will help reduce drips which cause flare-ups and charring. Don't leave meats out at room temperature for longer than one hour, as this will allow bacteria to grow rapidly. And if you need to thaw out meat, do so in the refrigerator.
Follow best practices while grilling:
Wait to brush on barbecue sauce until the food is almost cooked through. Sauces typically contain sugar, which easily burns. Don’t pre-grease the grill if your sauce contains oil, as this excess grease can increase chances of flare-ups. And avoid charring the meat, which increases carcinogens. Grill meat at low temperatures, and flip frequently to avoid charring. Remove burnt or blackened parts before eating. But on the other hand, don't undercook the meat. Grilled foods can be harmful if not fully cooked, as raw meats carry bacteria that may make you ill when eaten. The most reliable way to ensure meat is cooked safely is by using a meat thermometer. Use the following internal temperature guide: steak should be at least 145° F (for medium-rare) or 170° F (for well-done); hamburgers should be at least 160° F; and chicken should be at least 165° F inside. And lastly, soak any wooden skewers for at least 20 minutes. The absorbed water will prevent the wood from burning.
Don’t share utensils:
Sharing utensils between raw and cooked food can cause bacterial contamination. You should use separate grilling utensils, cutting boards, and plates for raw meat and cooked food. You might even want to color-code them to help keep them separate. After using cooking utensils with raw meat and poultry, be sure to clean them thoroughly with hot, soapy water. And finally, always serve cooked food from the grill on a clean plate, not one that has held raw foods.
Store left-over food properly:
Leftover grilled foods have a refrigerator life of three to four days, and if you don't finish a leftover within this time frame, you should throw it away. Be sure to reheat leftovers to an internal temperature of at least 165° F before serving. And boil any leftover sauces before re-using them on cooked meat, to destroy bacteria.
Next, let’s look at how to keep your home safe around a gas grill.
Use grills outside only:
Barbecue grills are designed for outdoor use only. Never barbecue in your home, trailer, tent, garage, or any enclosed area, as deadly carbon monoxide can quickly build-up. When setting up your grill outside, place it in an open area that is away from buildings, overhead combustible surfaces, dry leaves, or brush.
Keep grills at a safe distance from the house:
Use your grill at least 10-15 feet from any building, door, window or car to lessen the danger from fumes and accidental fires. Be aware of wind-blown sparks.
Consider placing a grill pad or splatter mat beneath your grill:
A good heat resistant pad will be made of lightweight composite cement or plastic, and will help protect your deck or patio from grease splatters.