Now that we’re well into the summer, you might be thinking about having a barbecue and inviting your friends, family, and neighbors over for an old-school grill-out. You’ve bought the burgers, the chicken, the hot dogs, and, of course, the condiments (which, let’s face it, are the best part.) So grocery-wise you’re all set. You’re ready to fire up the grill and fill the air with that juicy, smoky barbecue smell.
But before you start throwing on the burgers, it’s important to remember that grills – in addition to producing delicious food – are dangerous. Yes, something that allows you to cook a mouthwatering meal might seem innocent, but grills can turn on you if you don’t take the right precautions.
So, we’ve put together some of those precautions so you can get to grilling!
1. Know your grill.
Do you have a gas or a charcoal grill? This is important because they’re meant to be used differently. Gas grills require propane whereas charcoal grills require, well, charcoal and fire.
Anyways. This is important because you should never put starter fluid on a gas grill. Starter fluid is only for charcoal grills.
2. Take care of your gas grill.
If you have a gas grill, you need to make sure that you don’t have any propane leaks. Check the spot where the propane tank and fuel line are connected and make sure there are no leaks. If you think you have a leak, turn off the gas and DO NOT light the grill. Instead, get it fixed by a professional before cooking anything. (On the bright side, this gives you a good excuse to impose on your neighbors – now they get to host the get-together!)
Oh, and one more thing – never, ever use matches to check for propane leaks. Fire + propane = not good.
3. Keep the grill outside.
Don’t bring your barbecue into an enclosed, unventilated space, like your garage or home. This is a major fire hazard, but it’s also a carbon monoxide and smoke hazard, too. Carbon monoxide is not to be trifled with. It’s an odorless, colorless gas that can cause extremely serious health problems.
4. Respect the grill’s power of flammability.
Keep your grill away from things that could catch on fire. You should place it at least three feet from things like trees, outdoor furniture, and, oh, yes, your house.
Also, don’t grill on a wooden deck or porch. That could end up catching fire.
Your kids and pets might wander too close and end up getting hurt, so keep them at a safe distance and don’t let them run around or play close to the barbecue. You don’t want them to get burned.
6. Have good food-safety habits.
When you prep and cook food, you need to make sure that you’re keeping everything clean and not exposing the food to bacteria and other icky things that can make people sick. Food poisoning is not fun.
A few Food-Prep 101 tips:
- Wash your hands frequently (or use moist towelettes if you’re outside working the grill).
- Keep raw food away from cooked food.
- Don’t use the utensils you’re handling the raw food with on the cooked food.
- Marinate the meat in the fridge, not on the counter. Meat needs to be refrigerated.
- Cook the food thoroughly. Burgers should be cooked to 160˚F and chicken should be cooked to 165˚F.
- Put the leftovers in the fridge ASAP. Don’t wait longer than two hours to refrigerate the leftover food.
7. Don’t invite carcinogens to the party.
Carcinogens, or substances that cause cancer, are also a risk of grilling. When fat from meat drips onto the flames or charcoal, the smoke produced rises to the meat and releases carcinogens.
To reduce the chances of releasing carcinogens:
- Cook lean meats, like turkey burgers or lean cuts of beef. These have less grease. Also, cut the visible fat from poultry before throwing it on the grill.
- Marinate the meat. Herbs can prevent carcinogens from forming because they have natural antioxidants that do so.
- Scrub the grill with a wire brush after every use. This will clear the grill of any leftover chunks of food that could drip through the grates and release carcinogen-rich smoke.
- Use nonstick cooking spray. This prevents food build-up from forming on your grill.
So, there you have it – how to have that relaxing, casual grill-out safely! Now that you’re a grill-safety pro, you’re ready to invite the neighborhood to your place and have a feast. Let the hamburgers and hot dogs fly!
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