Grilling is, for me, one of life's simple pleasures. Great food, great friends, laughter. But as with so many things in life, if something is fun, it's probably dangerous, too.
Leaving your grill unattended, not cleaning grease or fat buildup, or having your grill too close to certain types of siding can cause injuries, fire, and property damage.
According to a report by the National Fire Protection Association, nearly 9,000 home fires per year involve grills. Of those, 84% were propane grills, and 16% were charcoal.
So to save yourself from some common grill-related issues, I've got some simple safety tips for you:
GENERAL GRILL SAFETY
1. Choose a safe location for your grill. Keep grills on a level surface more than ten feet away from the house, garage, or other structures. Keep children and pets away. Grills should not be used on a balcony or under an overhang. Avoid placing grills too close to combustible deck rails.
2. Grill outside only. Never use a grill in a garage, vehicle, tent, or other enclosed space, even if ventilated. Carbon monoxide can build up, which is incredibly harmful to your health.
3. Teach kids to stay safe. Make a "kid-free zone" around the grill at least five feet on all sides, and areas where other hot food is prepared or carried. Children under five are especially vulnerable to burns from contact with a hot grill surface. Grill contact accounted for 39% of burns seen at emergency rooms in 2016 involving children under five.
4. Remember post-grilling safety. Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill. If you grill with charcoal and need to dispose of the coals, soak them in water to extinguish them before disposing in a metal container. Otherwise, cover the grill tightly and close the vents. This should starve the coals of oxygen, and whatever is left will be ready for next time.
According to that NFPA report, a leak or break was the leading factor contributing to gas grill-related fires. Here are 7 simple safety tips for propane grills:
1. Check the gas cylinder hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year.
2. Apply some soap and water to the hose. This will quickly reveal escaping gas by releasing bubbles.
3. If you smell a propane leak, and there is no flame, turn off the cylinder and the grill. If the leak stops, get a professional to service it before using it again. Call the fire department if the leak doesn't stop.
4. If you smell propane while cooking, get away from the grill immediately and call the fire department. Do not attempt to move the grill.
5. Never turn on the propane when the lid is closed. The gas may build up inside, and when you ignite it, the lid could blow off and cause injuries or burns.
6. After cooking, make sure you completely close the valve on your gas grill.
7. Always store your grill and the propane tank OUTSIDE AND AWAY from your house.
According to that NFPA report, the leading cause of structure fires from the use of charcoal grills was leaving or placing an object that could burn too close to the grill. Here are 5 simple safety tips for charcoal grills:
1. Charcoal grills can remain hot for MANY hours after the flames go out. Avoid placing any burnable objects near the grill or moving the grill while the coals are hot. Keep flammable items that may be blown by the wind AWAY from the grill.
2. Check for rust in metal grills. This means that the structural integrity of the grill is low, which may make it possible for charcoal to fall through and cause a fire.
3. Buy the right starter fluid. Store out of reach from children, and away from heat sources.
4. Do NOT add charcoal starter fluid when coals or kindling have already been lit. Never use any other flammable or combustible liquid to get the fire started.
5. If the fire is low, rekindle with dry kindling and more charcoal if needed. Avoid adding liquid fuel because it can cause a flash fire.
The grilling season is upon us, so stay safe!