Every year, 19,700 Americans visit emergency rooms across the country for grill-related injuries, many of them on the Fourth of July. Michael Pritchard, chief of the Prevention and Information Branch of the U.S. Fire Administration, tells NPR that grills are being pulled out for the first cookout of the season, and this, combined with increased alcohol consumption and the false sense of security that you’re cooking in your own home, leads to a disastrous risk situation. Fortunately, we’ve got some tips on how to make your barbecue as safe as possible this year.
Understanding the risk
Charcoal grills cause an average of 1,300 home fires, and most of these are avoidable with some simple safety steps. For example, coals stay hot longer than most people realize. Coals should be monitored and left to cool for two days before being put in any trash cans.
Setting up your grill
So you’ve bought your burgers and pulled the grill out of the garage, what next? Pritchard recommends first checking the grill for any nests, animals, or leftover grease from last season. Set up your grill on a flat, sturdy surface, away from vegetation, and at least three feet away from any structure. Do not grill under awnings, trees, gazebos, or umbrellas.
Propane grill tips
Check your propane grill for leaks by using a soapy water test. Mix a bit of dish soap with water and shake, then brush it onto your propane hose and connectors. Turn on the tank, and if you see bubbles emerge anywhere, turn it off immediately. Bubbles indicate a leak, and you’ll need to replace your host and/or tank.
Checking your charcoal grill
Only use charcoal-approved lighter fluids to start a grill, and keep small children and animals away from the grill as the outside can get quite hot. As mentioned above, smother coals with the lid and let them cool for two days before disposing of them in a metal container. You can douse the coals with water to speed up this process but watch for flying ash.
While you cook
Make sure to grill in clothing with no loose components or dangling accessories. Gather all your cooking materials and ingredients before you begin, so you never leave the grill unattended. If you’re going to have many guests, consider marking off the grill area with colorful duct tape to indicate a no-go zone for children, pets, and rowdy guests.
With these simple safety tips, your family can enjoy a holiday cookout without worrying about flames or burns. Good luck and happy grilling!