Don’t let your summer cookout turn into a disaster. Follow these barbecue safety tips to keep the good times going.
You have a good spot in the shade with a cold iced tea. The kids are splashing in the pool. Your best friends just brought over their mouth-watering potato salad (what IS their secret ingredient?), and your dog is lazing on the deck. It’s shaping up to be a beautiful afternoon. Then your mistake threatens to ruin the entire day.
You neglected to follow one of the most essential barbecue safety tips: don’t place your grill too close to your home, deck, overhangs, or other structure. In a matter of seconds, your deck umbrella is in flames, and it’s dangerously close to igniting your home. Fortunately, you didn’t ignore all of the barbecue safety tips, and you have a fire extinguisher with you. As your neighbor calls the fire department, you pull the pin on the extinguisher, aim the hose nozzle toward the base of the fire, squeeze the handle, and sweep the nozzle from side to side, covering the flames.
Fire departments across the U.S. report an average of 9,600 barbecue fires every year, with 4,100 of those being structure fires. Grill-related injuries also send an average of 16,600 people to the emergency room every year. Clearly, a few safety tips might not be such a bad idea.
Barbecue Safety Tips:
How to Have Fun in the Sun
The statistics might be scary, but they don’t have to be. After all, what’s more fun than a summer afternoon barbecue? Safety tips don’t have to ruin your good times, either. Most are just simple reminders of things you already know.
- Only use your grill outdoors.
- Keep your grill away from your home or other structures, deck railings, eaves, overhanging plants or trees, deck umbrellas, or any other potentially flammable items.
- Clean your grill regularly. According to the National Fire Protection Association, approximately 20% of grill fires are caused by dirty grills. Grease and fats can build up quickly, creating the perfect environment for a flare-up.
- Check for gas leaks. Rub soapy water on the hoses and connections, then turn on the gas (with the lid open). Tiny holes or loose connections will cause the soapy water to bubble.
- NEVER turn on the gas with the grill lid closed. Gas can build up and explode when you light it.
- Keep a fire extinguisher within a few feet of your grill.
- Keep children and pets away from your grill. About one-third of contact burns happen to children under five.
- With charcoal grills, never add starter fluid or other flammable liquids once you’ve started a fire.
- Never leave a hot grill unattended.
- When you are done grilling, turn off the burners AND the fuel supply for a gas grill. For a charcoal grill, wait for the charcoals to completely cool, then dispose of them in a metal container.
Barbecue Safety Tips:
Not Just About the Grill
Staying safe around a hot grill is only one part of an enjoyable barbecue. Food safety is equally important.
- Always wash your hands when you are handling food.
- Keep raw meats away from cooked foods, and use a separate plate and cutting board for raw meat.
- Use clean utensils to remove cooked items from the grill.
- Thoroughly cook all meats. The internal temperature for hamburgers should be 160ºF and 165ºF for chicken.
- Keep cold food cold. Try to keep cold foods refrigerated at or below 40ºF until you are ready to use them.
- Keep hot foods hot. According to the FDA, hot foods need to remain about 140ºF and be eaten within two hours.
The best part about these barbecue safety tips is that you probably already know them. Maybe you’ve just forgotten to keep them in mind over the years. It happens to all of us. We get excited about spending time in the sunshine and enjoying the outdoors. But keeping these safety tips in mind will help ensure that you have a good time all summer long.
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