When the weather heats up, so do our grills. Backyard barbeques, or BBQs, are a dietary staple in the summertime, but they can be dangerous too if you aren’t careful.
“It is estimated that there are roughly 10,600 home structure and outdoor fires involving grills per year, of which most of them happened in the warmer months,” said Bellal Joseph, MD, FACS, a trauma and general surgeon at Banner – University Medical Center Tucson. “The leading factors are due to an improperly cleaned grill, leaks or breaks, leaving the grill unattended and having it too close to something that could catch fire.”
10 grilling safety tips for barbeques
Before you throw the brats, burgers and veggies on the grill, here are some helpful tips to remember so your next BBQ doesn’t end with a trip to the ER.
1. Grill outside and away from your home or any structure
Grilling should always occur outside and never indoors.
“Propane and charcoal grills are strictly designed for outdoor use where there is plenty of ventilation,” Dr. Joseph said. “You should place your grill no closer than 10 feet away from any house walls, siding, deck rails, eaves or hanging branches.”
2. Grill on an even, flat surface
Make sure your grill is set up on a stable surface, such as a concrete slab so that it remains level while cooking food. Grills that are placed on slopes or other uneven surfaces can tip over easily and cause a fire.
3. Inspect the the connection hoses and tanks on a gas grill
Check the grill, gas hoses and tanks to make sure they are in good working order.
To do this:
- Check the major connection points between the gas or propane tank hose and the regulator and cylinder and where the hose connects to the burners. Tighten if loose.
- Check the gas or propane tank hose for the potential leaks. To check, apply a light soap and water solution to the hose using a brush or spray bottle. Then turn the tank on with the grill lid open. If there is a gas leak, the propane will release bubbles around the hose (big enough to see).
4. Light grill with lid open
If it doesn’t light right away, keep the lid open and wait a few minutes before trying again. When lighting a charcoal grill only use charcoal lighter fluid. Do not use gasoline or kerosene to start a grill.
“These are highly volatile fluids and can explode,” Dr. Joseph said. “As an alternative to lighter fluid, use an electric, solid, metal chimney or other starters specifically made for lighting charcoal briquettes or wood chunks.”
5. Never leave a grill unattended
A fire can double in size every minute, so always keep a watchful eye on your grill. Plan ahead so you don’t have to run back inside for anything or send someone inside to get things for you.
6. Keep kids and pets away from grill
Make sure children and pets are at least three feet away from the grill, even after you’re finished cooking. The grill will stay hot for at least an hour after use.
7. Be prepared to put out a fire
Fires move fast, so it’s important to always keep a fire extinguisher on hand. It’s also helpful to have baking soda, sand or kosher salt on hand, but never use water to try and put out a grease fire or flare-up.
“To put a fire out, remove the food and smother the flames with baking soda, sand, kosher salt or fire extinguisher,” Dr. Joseph said. “You can also close the grill lid, as a lack of oxygen will help ease the fire and slow it down.”
8. Regularly clean your grill
Clean your charcoal or gas grill after each use with a grill brush and empty the grease tray when it begins to fill up.
“Barbecuing regularly causes grease to build up on the grill plates and collect inside the grease tray,” Dr. Joseph said. “If not cleaned, the build-up can then act as fuel and catch fire while the grill is in use.”
To clean your grill, first turn of the gas, and then turn off the grill itself. When the grates cool down, but are still warm, take a grill brush and clean any food particles that are stuck on the grate. It’s also helpful to preheat the grill for about 15 minutes and brush the grates again.
9. Wear the right clothing
Wear clothes that fit close to the body and have flame-retardant mittens or gloves for grilling. Pieces of clothing that have long sleeves or items dangling can catch fire easily when too close to an open flame.
10. Properly store gas sources after use
The propane or gas tank should be stored outdoors standing upright in a well-ventilated, shaded area. Storing indoors creates a fire hazard.
Seek immediate medical attention
Grilling is fun and the food is even better. That being said, injuries happen more often than you think, even when you think it couldn’t happen to you. Focus on preventing grill fires before they start so they don’t ruin your fun.