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Barbecue safety tips

Where there is smoke, there is heat and the possibility of an accident. Grills may cause burns and BBQ tools may cut when not used properly.

Barbecue safety in a few words

It should go without saying that barbecuing can be dangerous. It should, but there always seem to be some who haven't grasped that grills are hot and tools are sharp.

For some, pointing out the obvious will have no effect. But for others, listing some easy-to-implement protocols can save a burned hand or lost eye. If young children are around, those habits are even more important. They haven't yet learned that a barbecue is anything more than a big black box.

The first key to any safe practice is awareness. Because it's static and relatively quiet, it's easy to forget that barbecues are hot, full of smoke, can spit up flames at unexpected moments and splatter grease the moment you turn your head aside.

When you're about to lift the lid on your grill, approach the barbecue as if it might contain a wild animal. If you're at the pre-heat stage, you can expect a big blast of hot air in the face. Only, ensure that your face isn't over the grill and it won't be a problem.

If you've been cooking for a few minutes or more, smoke will most likely have built up as some of the meat becomes carbonized. Getting a grill or smoker that has handles on the side, rather than solely in front, can be a big help here. Lifting as you stand to the side will avoid most of the smoke, which tends to shoot out the (larger) open area in the front.

If you use a charcoal grill, and even with some gas or electrics, it's helpful to have a spray bottle of water within easy reach. That helps douse any grease-induced flame tongues that leap up. It's also very useful for spraying your hands, arms or even face if you get flamed or grease spattered.

Many grease splatters won't be helped much by spraying because the grease repels the water. But spraying helps reduce their temperature on the skin quickly, so it does help some. That's true of any kind of burn, too. Sprayed heavily enough, it's possible to wash off the grease entirely. NEVER put butter on a burn, which only provides a medium for burning the skin even more. That is, as it were, putting fuel to the fire.

Having the right tools and taking your time is always a good idea. If you're new to certain activities, like unthreading kabob over the grill or turning a fish basket, practice over a flat spot in the kitchen. When you've mastered the physical movements in a cool, safe environment, you're less likely to have accidents over the grill.

Still, be prepared for the unexpected. Steaks stick, burgers break in two, chicken skin peels off. Spraying the grill to minimize that may or may not work depending on your grill type, recipe and other factors. But always be ready. And never let your desire to 'save the meal' get you into trouble. No piece of meat is worth a bad burn.

After you're done, always let the grill cool before attempting some types of clean up. Many clean up guides will say that scraping a hot grill is easier than cleaning a cold one. That's true, since as the material cools it bonds to the grill. But scraping from a distance is safe. Cleaning with a wire brush is foolish, since you'll invariably fling hot bits of material onto your skin and possibly into your eyes. Better to wait and take longer cleaning up.

Practice safe barbecuing, especially when you're not the only one around who may pay for your mistakes.

How to keep grilling safe: the tools and rules

A grill is a great tool to add to your culinary repertoire. But grill safety is one of the most overlooked aspects of grilling today. And, like most home accidents, it is usually the smallest detail that is overlooked that leads to the biggest disasters.

Without the right tools and techniques, your grilling may not be safe. With this in mind, we will be covering tools to use as well as how to handle your grill to stay safe. By keeping these tips and suggestions in mind before you begin grilling, you will have the most delicious outcome, as well as a great time. Let's take a look at the tools and rules that make for a safe grilling experience.

Tools for Safe Grilling

You need the right tools to not only create the best grilled meals, but to do so safely. For instance, you want a good pair of long handled tongs that pinch completely closed so you can easily pick up smaller items, like fruit and veggies. You want tongs that are strong so you can turn heavier items like steak and chicken. A nice long handled spatula is good, too. Skip the carving fork for turning meat, because every time you poke a hole in the meat, juices run out. The giant carving fork can be used once the meat is removed and rested.

A long handled basting brush is also a necessary tool so that you can mop the sauce or marinade onto the food while it is on the grill. And don't forget the grilling gloves! These special gloves will keep you safer when moving food around. Of course, you'll want to invest in at least one basket and vented tray for smaller foods. Then the sky's the limit. But, with just these few tools, you will be ready to grill keeping safety as well as success in mind.

Another great tool to have on hand is a set of long grill matches and extra batteries for the grill's ignition switch. If your ignition switch fails, you can safely light your grill to get your cooking underway. Then, when you have time, replace your ignition battery so you're ready for tomorrow's grilling.

Gas grill safety rules

The most important safety tip to keep in mind is to follow your grill manufacturer's instructions to the letter. Lighting instructions are tedious in gas grills for a reason. If your gas grill doesn't light, and the instructions say to wait five minutes before attempting to light again, WAIT FIVE MINUTES. That is not a suggestion – it is a rule. And in this case, rules are NOT meant to be broken.

Never leave the gas valve open between grilling time. If there is a small leak, the gas may converge under the closed cover and be there when you go to light your grill the next time. Very serious mistake. Turn the gas on and off every time you grill. And never move your grill while lit or when the gas valve is open.

Keep the lid open on a gas grill after cooking for at least 15 minutes to allow the grill to cool down and to let any lingering gas evaporate. When the grill is totally cool, cover it with a good grill cover. Many people skip this part, but this is actually a safety tip. Outdoor debris, sand, and pollen in the air will settle in the gas jets and the dials, eventually leading to clogging, corrosion, or both. This will not end well. I guarantee, if you start covering your gas grill, you'll be amazed at how fast your cover gets dirty. THAT is the dirt that would have landed in your grill's working parts. See?

Don't forget the maintenance. Your gas grill owner's manual will come with specific maintenance jobs to be done routinely. If you're not comfortable replacing batteries or gas lines, or cleaning the gas jets and all the connections, then hire someone. And, yes, spiders will 'nest' in abandoned grills. That alone may be reason enough to pay someone to clean and maintain your grill on a routine basis. You decide.

Charcoal grill safety rules

Now, we're not just picking on gas grills. Charcoal grills have their own safety concerns. With charcoal grills, the instructions and maintenance may seem simpler, but it is still important.

Again, the most obvious safety issues are focused on lighting the fire. In this case, the tools are charcoal briquettes, or a similar flame producing vehicle, and perhaps a liquid to get the process going. You'll also have tools to help speed up the process, such as chimneys designed to keep the coals closer together so they ignite each other without the aid of an explosive liquid.

The first and most dangerous component to lighting a charcoal grill is the lighter fluid. If you opt to use a charcoal lighter fluid, you MUST use an actual made-for-charcoal lighter fluid. This means no gas and no kerosene. Let me repeat that; NO gas and NO kerosene.

When using charcoal lighter fluid, follow the instructions carefully. You'll be soaking the charcoal in the lighter fluid before throwing your match on. You will not be taking the can and spraying the lighter fluid into a lighted pile of charcoal. If done correctly, your charcoal should not explode, but should burn quickly at first, then slow to a nice simmer and finally end up with glowing coals. Even if you use your charcoal lighter fluid correctly, you still want to use a good strong kitchen match, then stand back.

You can also use lighter fluid infused charcoal briquettes that are widely available. You still need to be careful, but at least you won't have a can of explosive poison sitting around the house. If that thought scares you, then opt for the infused briquettes.

Or to avoid the whole situation, you may want to buy a simple chimney starter made specifically for charcoal fires. These are handy-dandy gadgets that are inexpensive to buy and easy to use. You can eliminate the fluid and fluid-soaked charcoal briquettes entirely. All you need is a little kindling or paper, a pile of briquettes, and a match. Remember to set your chimney starter in a safe, stable, out of the way ventilated area. And remember to wear your grilling gloves whenever you are handling your chimney.

If you are removing the charcoal ash after grilling, be sure the coals have completely gone out. Then dump them in a metal container like a bucket to store for at least several days before discarding. Only move the grill when it is completely cooled down after grilling. Never attempt to move a hot grill. People are burned and fires are started just by breaking this one rule.

Think seriously about the location of your grill. You need to set up an outdoor area, at least two feet away from a combustible wall, and on a fire-safe surface. Grilling, whether gas or charcoal, must not be done in an enclosed area; not even a screened-in porch. The gases from the charcoal or the propane will gather in the corners and hover, possibly undetected, until someone gets sick, or worse.

Okay, now that I've got you totally scared, I'm here to tell you that grilling out is nothing to be afraid of. It is, however, a serious business. You must be mindful of how you operate your grill. Use the right tools and follow these safety tips and you will enjoy your grilling experience more than ever!