Safety First, Fun Second
The sizzle and smoky deliciousness of a grilled steak or hamburger make the mouth water. However, grills put out an impressive amount of heat and flames. Accidents can happen. With safe grilling practices, you can prevent fires, burns, and other grill-related accidents. Careful handling and grill maintenance can make sure a preventable injury doesn’t overshadow all the tastiness that comes from the grill.
Propane and charcoal grills release carbon monoxide, which can build to dangerous levels in enclosed spaces. With propane, there’s also the possibility of a gas leak. Additionally, grills get hot to the touch, hotter than a traditional stove. Indoors, they became a fire hazard. For these reasons, always use propane and charcoal grills outside.
Grill Away From Buildings and Outdoor Structures
Move the grill to a clear area away from buildings and overhead structures, including tree branches. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that of all structure fires that involve outdoor grills, 44 percent of the property damage started with grills on an exterior balcony or open porch. Grills get extremely hot and have little insulation so that heat can spread. Dripping grease or fat can cause flames that easily catch any surrounding structure on fire, too.
Clean the Grill Regularly
Fat and grease quickly build up on the grill and the tray beneath the grill. Clean these areas regularly. How often you cook and how much food you cook at a time will determine whether the grill needs cleaning after each use or you can wait longer between uses. However, regular grill maintenance is a vital part of preventing grease fires and flare-ups.
RELATED: How To: Clean a Grill
Never Leave a Lit Grill
Attend a lit grill at all times. Flames can flare with little warning. Guests, kids, or pets might bump into it, not realizing it’s on and hot. Stick around even when the fire is just getting started. Sometimes the flame blows out, but the gas keeps flowing, or a hamburger falls apart and falls through the grill, creating high flames. Close attention can help you prevent problems and keep you and your family safe.
Wait 5 Minutes to Relight a Gas Grill
If the flame goes out on a gas grill, do not light it right away. Open the lid. Let the grill cool and ventilate for 5 minutes before restarting it. This gives any lingering gas time to dissipate. It also allows the grill to cool so you can make any adjustments without fear of burning yourself.
Check the Grill’s Stability
Rocky, uneven ground is not the right place for a grill. All of the grill’s feet should be firmly planted on the ground for stability. On uneven ground, a grill could tip over if bumped. If the grill is on a patio or deck, consider getting a splatter mat to stabilize the grill and protect the ground surface from grease and heat.
Use Only Charcoal Starter Fluid
For those cooking on charcoal grills, only use charcoal starter fluid. It’s specifically designed for use while cooking and grilling. Never add starter fluid or any other flammable liquid to hot charcoal or an open flame. A charcoal chimney starter is a safer alternative. Chimney starters use newspapers to start the fire rather than starter fluid.
RELATED: How to: Start a Charcoal Grill
Check the Hose and Propane Tank
Propane leaks quickly get dangerous, so check the tank before starting the grill for the first time each year. Apply a mix of soap and water to the propane tank and hose. Then, turn on the propane. Bubbles will show up around any leaks. After that, be aware of the signs of a propane leak, such as a flame that won’t light or the smell of gas.
Keep Kids and Pets Away
Grills let off a good deal of heat. Keep kids and pets at least 3 feet away from the grill at all times. This goes along with the tip about never leaving the grill unattended. Even kids who are well aware of the grill’s potential danger can forget if they’re outside having fun. At 3 feet, they can fall down and still be well out of the grill's hot footprint.
Be Prepared for a Fire
Fire prevention is the best way to stay safe. However, preparedness includes having the tools you need to put out a fire if one happens to start. Keep baking soda and a fire extinguisher nearby when grilling. The baking soda can handle grease fires, while the fire extinguisher will take care of other types of fires. If you find yourself without a fire extinguisher or baking soda, a bucket of sand will do in a pinch.
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