Cooking outside on a barbecue grill is one of the great joys of summer. But before you fire yours up, make sure you’re familiar with all the necessary precautions and safety techniques. Yes, of course, you know the obvious risks of cooking on an open flame. But there are preventive measures you should take before and after use to ensure your meal goes off without a hitch.
The following safety tips are easy and effective, and—when put into practice—will make grilling hazard-free.
1. Store your barbecue grill away from flammables
The grill should be in a well-ventilated area—not under a canopy, garage, or carport, where it might start a fire or even cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
2. Clean your grill before and after cooking
Before firing up the grill, clean the grate using a grill-specific cleaner, grease-cutting agents, or vinegar and water to get rid of any grease or residue.
“Start it clean, just like you would your oven,” Duncanson says.
Postcleaning, turn on the grill and let it run for 30 to 45 minutes to help sanitize it.
Phil Johnson, the owner and pitmaster of Trapp Haus BBQ in Phoenix, AZ, recommends keeping the temperature higher than normal: 200 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit on a smoker, and 300 to 400 degrees on a propane grill.
After cooking, clean the grates with a coiled-wire brush. When you use the wire brush, you cut down on the accumulation of grease that can lead to fires or attract bugs and animals.
3. Oil the grates
Before you turn on the grill and start cooking, Johnson recommends spraying the grates with cooking spray or pouring some vegetable oil on an old rag and wiping down the grates. This will prevent food from sticking to the grates, which could cause a flare-up.
4. Don’t overload the grill with too much food
If you place too much food on the grill all at once—especially meats with a high fat content—there’s a chance the grease will drip on the flames and cause a flare-up.
“If something starts flaring up, it’s very hard to get control,” says Johnson.
One great way to reduce flare-ups? Wrap your food in foil packets before throwing them on the grill.
“I’m a big believer in using foil packs to cut down on the grease,” says Duncanson.
5. Have a fire extinguisher nearby
In the event that your grill does go up in flames, you’ll want to have a fire extinguisher an arm’s length away. Make sure yours hasn’t expired by checking either the expiration date on the side or the pressure gauge. Most extinguishers work for five to 15 years.
6. Never leave your grill unattended
The fire in your grill can grow in mere seconds, so you should never step away from it, even to grab a plate or utensils. Bring all of your clean grilling tools like tongs, a spatula, and a plate over to the grill with you so you don’t have to race around to retrieve them.
7. Charcoal barbecue grill safety tips
- Don’t pile too much charcoal inside. It could cause ashes and sparks to become airborne, possibly causing a fire.
- Don’t use too much starter fluid. Use charcoal-specific starter fluid. Apply the fluid only to cold coals before you grill. Do not add extra fluid once the grill is lit as flames could get too high, resulting in possible burns or a fire.
- Wait to empty your ashes. Empty your used ashes only when they have fully cooled. Never store or dispose of ashes in a garbage can or leave them on a deck. It’s best to dump them on garden soil or contain them in a metal receptacle for proper disposal, says Duncanson.
8. Gas barbecue grill safety tips
- Open the lid before cooking. Opening the lid before lighting is important as this allows oxygen to escape and reduces the risk of fire or a potential explosion.
- Check the grill’s gas line and tank fittings for leaks. You can do this regularly by brushing soapy water around these areas. If you see bubbles emerge, there could be a leak somewhere. Be sure to replace any damaged or leaking parts, and make any other needed repairs before using the grill.
- Properly shut off the grill. To power off your gas grill, shut off the controls first and then close the gas line at the tank. “Once it’s completely off, open the burners back up so that gas can escape from the line so there’s no trapped fuel,” says Duncanson.