Grill Safety Tips

grill_safetyWith the Holidays quickly approaching, I thought it would be appropriate to take a moment to remind everyone to be safe with his or her travels and activities this season. With that in mind, here are some guidelines to make sure you are exercising caution and utilizing standard safety measures when grilling.

The first thing you should do with your grill is read the owner’s manual. No matter how familiar you think you may be with grilling, if you are getting a new grill, do yourself a favor and flip through the manual. New features and technologies are constantly becoming available, so it is important to familiarize yourself with your grill in the event something goes wrong.

The next thing that you should be very watchful of is your fire. It should go without saying that fire can be extremely dangerous, and if misused can cause severe damage, injury, and even death. Have a water sprayer handy to help reduce flare ups from grease, and also be sure to have a fire extinguisher or garden hose readily available in case your fire gets out of hand.

If you are using a gas grill, be sure to inspect it on a regular basis. Small pests and insects can crawl into spaces that you can’t see and cause disturbances to the flow of gas to your burners.  Make sure all the hoses and valves are in place and secured when inspecting your grill. Turn your grill off at the first sign of anything strange going on, and assume every part of the grill is burn your skin hot. Charcoal grills are known to cause more fire hazards than gas grills, primarily due to the misuse of lighter fluid. As with your grill itself, fallow the instructions on the label of whatever lighter fluid you are using, and if you like your eyebrows the way they are then make sure to never squirt liquid lighter fluid onto hot coals. If you are looking for a safer alternative to regular lighter fluid, I would suggest checking out an electric charcoal lighter.

Another important thing to keep in mind is the food that you are cooking. Most bacteria can survive on food from any temperature between 32 and 165 degrees F. Try to use as many fresh ingredients as possible, keep everything refrigerated for as long as possible, and remember it is better to be over cautious than careless. I personally always make sure to use separate cutting boards and utensils for meats and vegetables, as cross contamination is one of the leading causes of food poisoning.

One thing that is often overlooked is the location of your grill. Your owner’s manual should tell you the minimum distance that needs to be kept clear around your unit. Be sure that you place your grill on a surface that is flat and as non-flammable as possible. Also keep your surroundings in mind, things like tree branches, brush piles, hay or leaves or anything like that should be avoided as fires can spread typically a lot faster than one person can put them out.

Once you have all the basics of pre-grilling safety down, make sure to use common sense and exercise caution while grilling. Try to use longer utensils to avoid burning yourself, and avoid wearing baggy clothing, especially anything with long sleeves. Never hold your face over the grill to inspect your food, if you have to, take it off the grill and check it on a plate. Never try to move or clean a hot grill, and of course never leave it unattended.

A lot of the above advice may seem like common sense, however, it is easy to overlook them weather you are a seasoned griller or just starting out. Nothing can ruin a BBQ faster than a trip to the hospital or visit from the fire department.  Here is a reminder to enjoy your grilling experience in as safe a manner as possible this holiday season and on into 2012.

Will Ives is a freelance writer with several years experience working as a chef in the Mid-Coast of Maine.  Originally self-taught, Will received his degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management from Champlain College is Burlington, Vermont. Having a passion for the unknown as well as all things food, Will has spent the better part of the last two years traveling through the Mediterranean, as well as Central and Eastern Europe discovering many of the traditional dishes of the “Old World.”

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