Have a Happy and SAFE Grilling Season

by Stefan Lonce

I don’t know about you, but I don’t wait until Memorial Day to start my grilling season. It happens every year…usually in early March I buy a couple of nice steaks and put them in my freezer awaiting the first warm, sunny day of the season. But first, there’s work to be done and some things of which you should be aware.

In 2013-2017 outdoor grilling caused an annual average of 10,200 home fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Gas grills caused more home fires than charcoal grills, the association added. Regardless of the type of grill you own, here are some safety tips that will keep you and your home safe for the grilling season:

  1. Grill outside and away from any structures: Charcoal and gas grills are designed for outdoor use only. However, NFPA reports that more than one-quarter (27%) of home fires started by outdoor grills began in a courtyard, terrace or patio, and 29% started on an exterior balcony or open porch. Pay attention to overhanging tree branches when you set up your grill.
  2. Make sure your grill is stable: Only set up your grill on a flat surface and make sure the grill can’t be tipped over. Consider using a grill pad or splatter mat underneath your grill to protect your deck or patio.
  3. Keep your grill clean: Remove grease or fat buildup from both the grill and the tray below the grill (See #4). If you are using a charcoal grill, allow the coals to completely cool off before disposing of them in a metal container.
  4. BEWARE THE WIRE BRUSH: If you use a stainless steel or brass wire brush to remove stuck-on food from grill grates, be aware of this surprising downside: Small, sharp bristles can break off as you’re cleaning and get stuck to your grill’s cooking surface. The next time you grill, those stray bristles may adhere to food and be accidentally ingested. (This happened to my brother! He ended up in the emergency room with a wire bristle lodged in his throat! My nephew told me he was quite the celebrity in the ER that night…all the doctors wanted to see it.) As a matter of fact, an estimated 1,700 Americans went to the emergency room between 2002 and 2014 after having ingested wire bristles in grilled food, according to a study published in 2016 in the journal Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. Consider using a pumice stone or a coil-shaped bristle-free brush. I use a home-made brush…a wadded up piece of foil held with a long handled pair of tongs! After heating your grill, use the foil to scrub off the grates.
  5. Check for propane leaks on your gas grill: Before the season’s first barbecue, check the gas tank hose for leaks by applying a light soap and water solution to the hose and then turning on the gas. If there is a propane leak, the solution will bubble. Other signs of a propane leak include the smell of gas near the barbecue or a flame that won’t light.
  6. If the flame goes out, wait to re-light: If you are using a gas grill and the flame goes out, turn the grill and the gas off, then wait at least five minutes to re-light it.
  7. Take care around the grill: Never leave a lit grill unattended. Don’t allow kids or pets to play near the grill. Never try to move a lit or hot grill, and remember the grill will stay hot for at least an hour after use.
  8. Be careful with charcoal starter fluid: If you use a charcoal grill, only use charcoal starter fluid. If the fire starts to go out, don’t add any starter fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire. Consider using a charcoal chimney starter, which uses newspaper to start the fire instead of starter fluid.
  9. Wear the right clothing: Loose fitting clothing is NOT ALLOWED! Clothing can easily catch fire, so be sure your shirt tails, sleeves or apron strings don’t dangle over the grill.
  10. Be ready to put out the fire: Have a fire extinguisher nearby…and check that it is charged and ready to use! A fire extinguisher should be purchased at the time you purchase your grill! If you can’t afford a fire extinguisher, you can’t afford a grill. Never use water to put out a grease fire, it will just spread it.

These easy-to-follow tips will help you and your family to enjoy a safe and fun grilling season. ENJOY!