Tips For Safe Barbecuing
Contributed by HPBA
Consumers’ love affair with barbecuing continues unabated, and for good reasons. They tell us they barbecue mainly because the
food tastes good, but they cite other reasons too: it’s fun, it keeps the kitchen cool, it’s a great way to entertain at home… the list goes on.
Following a few basic steps can help ensure safe, reliable operation of your outdoor cooking appliance, regardless of what type you use.
RECIPE FOR SAFETY: FIRST, BE SMART AND INFORMED
The main “ingredient” for safety in outdoor cooking is common sense. Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for assembling and using your grill or smoker, and call their “help line” numbers if you have a problem or a question.
BASIC SAFETY TIPS
Use your barbecue grill outdoors, in an open area away from any enclosure or overhang – carbon monoxide can accumulate and cause fatalities
Be sure all parts of your grill are firmly in place and that the grill is stable
If you use electrically-powered accessories (e.g., a rotisserie) be sure they are properly grounded in accordance with local codes. Buy a cord designed
for outdoor use. Route the cord well away from the hot grill and away from walkways
Use long-handled utensils to avoid burns and spatters
Do not wear anything with hanging shirttails, frills or apron strings
Use flame-retardant mitts when adjusting hot vents
To extinguish flare-ups, spread out the coals with a long-handled utensil (if you can reach them easily), or adjust the controls to reduce the temperature. If you must douse the flames with a sprits of water, first remove the food from the grill. Always use an elbow-length, flame retardant mitt when dealing with flare-ups
Use baking soda to control a grease fire and have a fire extinguisher handy. If you do not have a commercial extinguisher, keep a bucket of sand or a garden hose nearby
Never leave a hot grill unattended
Do not allow any activities around the grill when it is in use or still hot. Always use the grill away from combustible surfaces, and never attempt to move a hot grill
Prior to lighting a gas grill, be sure to open the lid to prevent a buildup of gas
When cooking is completed, be sure to turn off the fuel supply and then turn the burners to “off”
Check your grill regularly for signs of wear and tear, particularly for hose cracks and possible leaks; also keep burners clear of dirt and insects that can block hoses or venturi tubes
If you have an LP gas grill, always store your propane tanks outside and in an upright position
Never use an LP cylinder if it shows signs of dents, gouges, bulges, fire damage, corrosion, leakage, excessive rust or other forms of visual external damage. It may be hazardous and should be checked by a liquid propane supplier
For more consumer safety information about liquid propane, visit www.usepropane.com
The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) offers these suggestions for general grilling safety. More information – with detailed sections on safety tips for gas, charcoal/wood chunk and electric grilling, as well as Food Safety Tips for Barbecuing – is available under the Consumer link on the home page of our web site (www.hpba.org); click on Safety First!
LIGHT MY FIRE
Ceramic briquettes – Used in gas and electric grills to distribute heat evenly, ceramic briquettes remain in the grill for long term use. They can be turned over periodically to extend their life after one side has been covered with cooking grease. Replace every 12 to 18 months, if you barbecue frequently, or when you notice the briquettes are starting to crumble.
Charcoal briquettes – Made by burning wood to form lump charcoal, then grinding that into a powder, combining it with starch as a binder and compressing the mixture into the familiar pillow-shaped briquettes.
Flavor bars or screens – Many gas grills use these metal plates instead of ceramic briquettes. The flames heat the bars to provide uniform heat across the grill surface. Juice and fat drip onto the bars and vaporize to create smoke flavor.
Light-the-Bag Charcoal – A one-use (two-pound) package is placed in a charcoal grill and lit; the burning bag ignites the briquettes and results in glowing red, ready-to-cook-on briquettes in about 20 minutes.
Liquid Propane – LP is available in one-pound disposable cylinders for portable grills to 20-pound cylinders for most other gas grills. Refilling an empty cylinder typically can be done at propane dealers. Another way to get a full tank is to take advantage of the Propane Exchange Program. Cylinder exchange is typically done at hardware stores, home improvement stores, grocery stores, or convenience stores. Because LP tanks must be stored outside, you can spot the LP exchange dealer by the cage of tanks nearby.
Natural gas – Tapping into your household gas means you never run out of fuel in the middle of a cookout, or have to take a cylinder for refilling or exchange. Especially popular with new homes, an outdoor gas line can be run underground to your grill area.
Natural lump charcoal – Lump charcoal burns hotter than briquettes, which makes it great for searing or cooking a rare steak, but the heat is less even as it also loses temperature more quickly. Purists swear that lump charcoal produces a more intense wood flavor. Lump charcoal is made from carbon residue of hardwood that has been charred in a kiln.
Wood chunks/logs – Hardwoods, such as mesquite, hickory and oak, work double duty in charcoal or smoker grills as they provide both cooking heat and smoke flavor. Logs or chunks of wood can be the primary fuel or they can be combined with charcoal to add flavor to the smoke. Fruit woods, such as apple, peach, cherry, etc. are used primarily to add flavor to foods.