Grilling Safety Tips for Gas and Charcoal Grills

Grilling hot dogs on grill

 

With the weather getting warmer every day, it’s time to start gearing your home and yard up for the summer months, which are just around the corner. From hosing down the patio furniture to breaking out the grill, summer is the season for all things outdoors.

However, before you start planning your next backyard barbecue, make sure you brush up on your grilling safety tips. Whether you have a gas or charcoal grill, you should know about the safety tips we cover below so you can be sure to have a safe and fun summer!

General Grill Safety Tips

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) an average of 9,600 home fires involving grills, hibachis or barbecues occur every year, and July is the peak month for fires caused by grills. Gas grills contribute 7,900 home fires per year. Charcoal and other solid-fueled grills follow, with 1,300 home fires per year.

All this is to say, grill safety is no joke. And even though you might feel like a pro, you or others in your home might not know the proper safety precautions to take around grills.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty specifics of gas and charcoal grills, let’s first discuss some general grill safety tips that you can put into practice today.

Before Cooking

Before you throw your hot dogs or hamburgers on the grill, here are a few things you should do to prepare:

  • Don’t light the grill inside a garage or indoor space.
  • Keep the grill 10 feet away from your house, fences and hanging branches.
  • Make sure the barbecue is on flat ground or a stable base.
  • Open the grill lid before you light it.
  • Light barbecues with a long match or mechanical lighter specific to barbecues.
  • Don’t wear loose clothing.

Make sure you place your grill far enough from your home and other objects that could potentially catch on fire. If you’re grilling on a particularly windy day, give your grill even more space, as sparks could travel and catch on nearby objects.

During Cooking

Now that you’ve properly set up and secured your grill a safe distance from your home, it’s time to get cooking. Here are some basic grill safety tips:

  • Never leave a grill unattended.
  • Keep children away from the grill and the grill lighter.
  • Use long-handled tools and flame-retardant mitts when working with the grill.
  • Be aware of the wind, which may blow sparks.
  • Never use water on a grease fire; spread baking soda over the flames instead.
  • Have a fire extinguisher nearby in case a fire starts.

The best way to keep you, your family and your home safe is by never leaving the grill unattended while you’re cooking. Not only could an unattended grill pose a potential danger to young children or pets, whatever you’re grilling could also potentially catch on fire. Make sure you’re always keeping an eye on the grill and have the right tools to stop a fire from spreading.

After Cooking

Before you gather with friends and family to enjoy the fruits of your labor, make sure you follow these safety tips after you’ve finished grilling:

  • Allow the grill to cool completely before moving it.
  • Clean out the inside of the grill and empty debris into a metal container with a tight-fitting lid.
  • Store the lighter fluid, matches and lighter away from small children.

Your backyard barbecue doesn’t stop when everyone sits down with their plate. It’s important to clean your grill, as a buildup of residue could potentially catch on fire during your next use.

Now that we’ve discussed some basic grill safety tips, let’s specifically talk about gas and charcoal safety tips, as each grill has its own risks.

Gas Grill Safety Tips

Gas grills are pretty convenient to have around, as they tend to be easier to clean than charcoal grills and come with a variety of accessories that can often improve the quality of the food you’re cooking. However, their mobility can be limiting, and they rely on having a gas line. Additionally, they come with their own safety risks that you need to be aware of when using them. Here are a few precautions you should take:

Before Cooking

One of the nicer things about gas grills, as opposed to charcoal versions, is that you don’t need to wait for the charcoal to heat up – instead, you’re ready to cook as soon as you turn it on. However, before you get cooking, here are some ways to prepare:

  • Check the gas line connections for leaks before using your gas grill.
  • Check for rusted burners.
  • Clean the Venturi tubes (the tubes that extend from the burner to the control valves) regularly.

Since gas grills rely heavily on a secure and safe connection to a gas line to function properly, make sure you allot time to do a few connection and leak checks before grilling. This will not only keep your gas grill running for a long time but also help prevent dangerous fires.

During Cooking

Because gas grills are low maintenance, there’s not much you need to watch out for while you’re grilling. But the following advice is worth mentioning:

  • Always light your gas barbecue with the lid open.
  • Don’t overfill the liquid propane gas cylinder.
  • Keep the grill outside in a well-ventilated space, as carbon monoxide can result in serious injuries or even death.
  • Use ceramic briquettes instead of lava rocks, which are prone to catching fire.

After Cooking

Cleanup is just as important as setup with gas grills, so make sure you follow these steps after you’re finished grilling:

  • Never store extra cylinders indoors, and if you need to change them, do so in an open outdoor space.
  • Never use cylinders that are past their expiration date.
  • When finished, turn off the burners and the propane cylinder, and check for grease build-up while cleaning.

Be sure to turn off the gas after use. Wasting gas is expensive, and gas leaks can pose a risk to your health or possibly cause a fire.

Charcoal Grill Safety Tips

Charcoal grills are a less expensive alternative to gas grills, and they actually heat your food at a higher temperature than gas versions. They add a unique smoky flavor to your foods that can’t usually be found in food cooked on a gas grill.

But charcoal grills also have their downsides, like a not-so-easy to clean surface that tends to take time to both heat up and cool down. Let’s go deeper into how you can safely use a charcoal grill:

Before Cooking

As mentioned earlier, charcoal grills take a little longer than gas to heat up. They also require a few extra steps when getting them going. Here are just a few precautions to take upfront:

  • Only use enough charcoal to cover the base of the barbecue about 2 inches deep.
  • If using charcoal briquettes, use the minimum amount of lighter fluid necessary to get them going since they give off carbon monoxide.
  • Let the lighter fluid soak into the coals for a few minutes before lighting them so the gas can evaporate.
  • Stand back when lighting the grill.
  • Never use gasoline or kerosene to light the grill.

When using charcoal, the most important safety tip to remember is to use only charcoal starter fluid – and only the minimum amount of lighter fluid you need. The starter fluid will release carbon monoxide as it burns, which is dangerous to inhale in large quantities.

During Cooking

Even though it takes a while to get a charcoal grill heated up and ready for cooking, once you get it hot enough, there isn’t much maintenance required. But here are a few precautions to take:

  • After using starter fluid, close the container and move it away from the open flame.
  • Never add more starter fluid once the coals are burning.

Something to be aware of: While most enjoy the rich, smoky flavor a charcoal grill gives food, it also has a tendency to get ashes in your food. While this isn’t usually a health hazard, it might change the taste of the food.

After Cooking

Charcoal grills differ from gas grills in the sense that they take longer to cool down after use. Additionally, they require more cleanup. Here’s what you should do after you finish grilling:

  • Allow coals to burn out completely or soak them in water before putting them in a non-combustible container.
  • Make sure the charcoal ashes are cool before you remove them.
  • Wrap the ashes in foil and put them in an empty non-combustible container.
  • Store extra charcoal in a metal container with a tight-fitting lid to keep it dry.

When you’re cleaning up your charcoal grill, never put the ashes into a paper bag or garbage can, as this could start a fire. You’ll want to empty everything from the grill into a non-combustible container.

Now that you learned how to safely handle your gas or charcoal grill, you’re ready for an unforgettable summer full of backyard barbecues with delicious grill recipes. If you read these tips and want to make a change in the type of grill you use, check out what you need to consider before buying a new gas or charcoal grill.