Don’t get burned: Grilling safety tips

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There’s nothing better than grilling up a storm with friends and family once the weather warms up. But before you fire up the grill, remember safety first. This go-to guide filled with grilling safety tips is an essential checklist at the start of every grilling season. 

Burgers on a gas grill with flare ups.
Photo Credit: YayImages

Ready to spark up the grill and kickstart your summer BBQs? There’s nothing like the flavor you get when grilling outside on your charcoal grill. But you don’t want your fun to go up in smoke after putting hard work in on the perfect steak marinade. Walk through a few easy ways to grill safely with these essential tips that are great to remember whenever you pull out the grill.

Grilling safety 101 

Grilling is undoubtedly a summer highlight. Still, safety should never take a back seat. Here are a few quick tips:

  • Choose your grill spot wisely. Keep it away from buildings or anything that could easily catch fire.
  • Have a fire extinguisher or a garden hose nearby. It’s always better to be over-prepared.
  • Place your grill on a flat surface, away from trees, shrubs or patio furniture. Stray sparks can be more dangerous than you think.
  • Don’t leave the grill unattended, and make sure to turn off all burners when you’re done cooking. 
  • Keep children and pets at a safe distance. 

Picking the perfect BBQ spot

Set your grill up in an open, well-ventilated area and at least 3 feet away from anything that could light up from a stray spark. This includes trees, fencing, patio furniture and buildings like the house or shed.

Before you get the grill ready for mouthwatering smoked pork butt, give the area a quick once-over — remove any leaves or twigs and check that the ground is level and that there is a fire extinguisher or functioning hose nearby. 

And remember the kids — make sure they understand the grill is hot and not a toy. Keep curious pets at a distance from hot grills and cooking areas, as well.

But here’s the most important tip: never leave your grill unattended. Yes, the fun of a great BBQ comes from chatting with the company while sharing an amazing grilled meal slathered in homemade compound butter. But keep an eye on what you’re cooking — your careful attention could save the day, and prevent the food from burning.

Grill brush on gas grill.
Grill brush on gas grill. Photo credit: Girls Can Grill

Keeping your grill in tip-top shape

Cleaning your grill means more than just wiping it down after use. You need to get in there and clean it properly to keep your BBQ going without a hitch. 

At the start of the season and throughout the year, give the grill a good cleaning. Start by scrubbing all parts of the grill — the lid, the inside walls, the grates and burner tubes — with a wire brush in dipped warm, soapy water. Wipe off any excess water, then allow the grill to air dry completely.. This will get rid of any lingering grease that might flare up next time you’re cooking. 

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If you’re using a charcoal smoker, make sure to clean out the ashes after every cookout once they have cooled. When grilling, only use high-quality briquettes that have been properly stored, and never pour lighter fluid onto burning coals — it’s a surefire way to cause a flare-up.

For gas grills, pay extra attention to the hose connections and pipes. A simple way to check for leaks is to spray them with soapy water at the start of the season, then turn on the tank. If you see bubbles, you’ve got a leak! Don’t try to fix this yourself if you aren’t experienced.

Contact a professional to replace faulty parts immediately to avoid any danger. And don’t forget to turn off all burners when you’re done to prevent accidental fires. 

Before firing up the grill, give it a once-over for any signs of damage or wear since your last barbeque. No matter what kind of grill you’re using, always have an adult around to keep an eye on things. This is especially important when kids are present. Grills can stay hot even after you’re done cooking, so make sure children and pets keep their distance until the grill has cooled down completely.

spatchcock chicken being removed from the grill.
Grilled spatchcock chicken. Photo credit: Girl Carnivore.

Come armed with useful tools and the right clothing

Dressing right is also key when cooking over open flames. You’d be surprised how much damage a hot sizzle can do. Avoid wearing flowy clothes that could easily blow into the flames. 

Wearing closed-toed shoes may seem like not the right wardrobe choice in summer, but it’s a smart move when manning the fire. Good shoes can help protect your feet against stray ashes, and they can also protect against hot spills, should they happen. 

Use essential grilling tools, like long tongs and heat-resistant gloves, to easily manage the food and grill grates and prevent unnecessary burns. For tongs, keep three pairs on hand, one for moving coals, one for raw meat and one for cooked meat to avoid cross-contamination. 

“A good set of tools can make all the difference in your grilling experience. There’s no need for fancy kits with every utensil under the sun, a pair of tongs, a spatula and some heat resistant gloves are really all that’s needed to get started and keep your arms and hands away from the heat. Keeping them in a case near the grill makes for easy access and less trips running back and forth to the kitchen”.

— Gina Matsoukas, Running to the Kitchen

Know when to call the experts

A grill, like any other appliance, can have its share of issues, despite the best care. Sometimes, you might need to call in the professionals. Here are a few signs that your grill needs an expert’s touch:

  • Gas Leaks: Are the flames uneven, or is the propane tank empty? This could be a gas leak. It’s not something to ignore because it can lead to severe risks. Here’s what to do:
    • Turn off all fuel sources right away.
    • Call a specialist to investigate the situation before you resume grilling.
  • Subpar Performance: Is your grill not heating up as it used to? This might mean it’s time for some expert intervention. A professional can help identify and solve the problem, whether it involves repairing or replacing parts.
  • Unusual Noises: Grills can make odd sounds under certain conditions, often due to issues like valve malfunction or wear and tear. Hearing something strange? Don’t ignore it. Instead:
    • Shut down the grill immediately.
    • Call a qualified professional to check the situation and prevent further damage.

The bottom line: Grill safely, party happily

Grilling is a great way to enjoy time with loved ones, but safety must always come first. Always have a fire extinguisher nearby, avoid wearing clothes that could easily catch fire, and never leave the grill unattended. Be mindful of where you set up your grill to keep a safe distance from flammable or hazardous objects. If you remember these grilling safety tips, you can enjoy your BBQ confidently and safely.

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