Grilling is a beloved outdoor cooking tradition, and even under our current local fire restrictions (see the 7/20/2020 notice) and health mandates under the Covid-19 pandemic, it can still be safe and enjoyable. Whether you are using a charcoal or propane grill, experienced or just learning, your knowledge of safe practices can prevent serious injury and property damage. And it will probably help your flame-licked food taste more delicious!

If you are only going to remember one basic thing from this article filled with safe grilling tips, please make it this:  Don’t place your grill too close to anything that burns, or it may just become a fire hazard. 

But, there is a little bit more to safe grilling, so please stick with us and read the rest! With 10,600 home fires started by grills and 19,700 visits to the emergency room due to grill injuries each year in the United States, please heed the following recommendations for super safe grilling.

  1. Start from good and clean. Make sure the grill is in good working order and clean of any past buildup of grease or other crud. If a grill has not been in use recently, remove any collected debris from inside (e.g., animal nests!) and scrape away any layers of grease build up. If you are operating a new device, read the instruction manual. For a propane grill, check the gas connector hardware and visually inspect the gas tank hose for cracks or damage. Twist open the valve on the gas tank and use your nose to smell for any leaking propane, or cover the gas tank hose with soapy water and look for bubbles to form, as demonstrated in this video. If you have a gas leak that you cannot stop, call 9-1-1.
  2. Setup matters. Keep a clear three-foot zone around your gas or charcoal grill. A buffer of space will reduce the possibility of melting/burning materials and structures around the grill, and in the event of a grill fire, will prevent the spread of fire to structures or flammable materials. Keep the grill well away from your home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.

Many structure fires are started by people operating barbeque grills on balconies, porches, courtyards or patios, where they did not leave an ample buffer away from flammable materials. If you live in an apartment or condo, check your lease or condo association for rules about grills or grilling locations. Never operate a grill indoors or near an open window as to prevent deadly carbon monoxide gas from filling the area.

  1. Ignite with care. With a gas grill, always open the lid before turning on the gas and igniting. When preparing charcoal for a grill, use the charcoal lighter fluid according to the instructions on the bottle. Never add lighter fluid to charcoal that has already been ignited! Keep matches, gas lighters, and lighter fluid away from children.
  2. Defend the grill. Protect yourself and others from burns. Never leave a hot grill unattended. Maintain the three-foot buffer zone around the grill and prevent children and pets from entering the area to prevent thermal burns. Use long-handled grilling tools, and push up any long sleeves to prevent your clothing from encountering the flames. Consider wearing a flame-retardant apron to protect your clothing from burns and stains.
  3. Cool off and clean up. When you are finished grilling on a charcoal grill, let the coals cool completely before disposing of them in a metal container. Then clean the grate, consider using a brush without metal bristles; the metal bristles can break off and be ingested accidently by humans or pets, causing serious internal injuries. Remove the grease or fat buildup from the trays below the grill.


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