While summer serves up mild temperatures and delicious barbecue delights, it can also serve up danger. Every year, an average of 22,155 people head to the emergency room with injuries sustained by a grill, and approximately 9,079 home fires occur due to gas grills alone. Enjoy your summer and the mouthwatering flavors of it with the help of these top grilling safety tips!
Beware of cobwebs and other surprising items
Since you probably haven’t touched your grill since last summer or fall, you’ll probably find some surprising new additions to it, including nests, rodent droppings, and spiderwebs. Unfortunately, all these can cause a fire, so before you even light it up, inspect your grill. Then give your grill a thorough cleaning, inside and out. This should include cleaning the grates, heat deflectors, burners, cook box, and cover.
Also, if you use your grill frequently, you should deep clean it at least once every other month. After you use the grill, the grates should be cleaned with the following steps:
- Turn up the heat for a few moments to loosen any remaining food on the grates.
- Turn off the heat and let the grates cool until they are warm.
- Scrape the remaining food off the grates with a grill brush.
Also, make sure to clean the grease trap, and use a scraper to free any hard particles that have collected.
Pick a safe location
The simple placement of your grill can mean the difference between an enjoyable summer evening and a trip to the emergency room. First, always grill outside. (Never use a charcoal or propane grill inside your home or in a house garage). Second, make sure to place the grill at least 10 feet away from a building or deck railings, and never put it under overhanging tree branches.
Finally, make sure the grill is on level, stable ground, and once you fire up the grill, keep it in the same position until it has completely cooled.
Be careful when using gas
Anytime you smell gas, turn off the valve on the tank, evacuate everyone from the home, and move at least 350 feet away. Do not use any electronics, including your cell phone, until you and your family are safe. Then call 9-1-1.
If you don’t smell gas but want to ensure your propane tank is secure, first check the line for signs of cracks, punctures, and damage. Then, spread a soapy water solution along the hose and turn on the gas. If bubbles form along the line or by the cylinder valve and outlet connection, there is a leak. Move 350 feet away and call 9-1-1.
Light your grill safely
If you’re using a charcoal grill, most coals are pre-treated. Wait until the coals turn a grayish-white, then start grilling. If your coals aren’t pre-treated, then be careful when using charcoal starter fluids. They should only be used to start charcoal grills, and the fluids need to soak into the coals for about a half an hour. Never add it to the coals once they have been lit and never add fluid to pre-treated coals.
When using a propane grill, don’t automatically relight the burner if it goes out. Instead, turn off the gas and wait at least five minutes. This will allow the gas time to dissipate.
Be prepared…just in case
Preparation is one of the best ways to stay safe, even in a potentially dangerous situation. When using any type of grill, a Class B or K fire extinguisher should be nearby to put out any fires. At no time should water be used on a grease fire. That will only make the situation worse. If embers fall off the grill, however, you can douse them with water from a garden hose.
If a small fire starts on a gas grill, then follow these steps:
- Turn off the tank.
- Shut the grill hood.
- Wait for the fire to die out.
However, if you fear for your safety at any time, immediately clear the area and call 9-1-1.
Avoid grilling mis-steaks
Unfortunately, it’s all too easy for a lunch barbecue to go awry. Never leave a grill unattended and create a perimeter of at least three feet around your hot grill. No children or pets should enter this area and keep it free of fire hazards, including oven mitts, loose clothing, and even apron strings.
If you use a grill brush to clean the grates, then make sure the wire bristles stay out of your food. (This can be very bad for your digestive tract.) We recommend using a bristle-free brush and scraper when grilling.
Let your grill cool off completely
With a gas grill, make sure all burners are fully off, and close the valve on the propane tank or turn off the gas supply.
When using a charcoal grill, close the vents and lower the lid when finished to starve the fire of oxygen and allow the charcoal to burn out naturally. Coals can be disposed of (ideally in a metal container) after 48 hours. Do not pour water onto hot coals. You may be burned by the hot steam, and the cold water can damage the grill.
Grills need to be protected from the rain, same as the griller. Use a rip-proof, water- and UV-resistant cover, and store your grill in a cool, dry place. If you keep your grill outside, then the propane tank can stay connected as long as the grill doesn’t receive direct sunlight. If you store your grill inside, disconnect the propane tank and leave it outside, out of direct sunlight.
Check your grill for recalls
Unfortunately, like any other consumer products, grills can be recalled due to malfunctions and other reasons. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has a website where you can check to make sure your grill hasn’t been recalled. (They also have a newsletter you can sign up for, so you’ll be alerted when a product has been recalled.) Just make sure that if your grill has been recalled, you follow the instructions to get it repaired or replaced.
After all, there’s a lot at “steak.”
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