There’s something primordially satisfying about a flame-scorched piece of meat chased down with an ice-cold beverage. Grilling season is anticipated all winter long by the folks who like to cook it all outdoors.  However, nothing interrupts a good BBQ like a trip to the emergency room. As you search for the perfect burger and beer, don’t forget to include grilling in your plan to be safe.

Grilling Fuel Safety

First we can consider the grill. The key component of your grill is fire.  Some people like charcoal briquettes or wood to build their fire. Others enjoy using propane gas to fire up their backyard appetites. Regardless of what you use, fire burns hot and can be dangerous when not used properly. When using a grill, be sure to keep a fire extinguisher close by, or if one isn’t available, consider keeping a bucket of water or even sand to use in case the fire gets out of control. Also, it’s a good idea to have a first-aid kit handy in the event someone scorches a finger.

The most risky part of using your grill is lighting the fire and then making sure the fire is out when you’re finished. Generally, propane is considered the safest type of outdoor grilling fuel. It’s easier to light and easier to put out when you’re finished cooking. Use extreme care when lighting charcoal or wood fires to avoid any unwanted ignition from the starting fluid. NEVER use gasoline to start a grill.

Once the fire is started, it must be constantly monitored until it is completely out and cooled off. Unattended fires are the most dangerous.

Food Safety Considerations

After the fire, the next major source of risk is most likely the food itself. I’m not referencing taste, but rather pathogens. Food poisoning is not anything you want to invite to your family outing. Almost anything you decide to grill can start to collect bacteria or other things that make it bad for you until you get it cooked to at least 165 degrees and served hot. A good rule of thumb for grilling is to keep everything cold until it’s time to put it on the grill, then you want to get it hot.

Grilling By-products and Grill Location

With all grilling adventures you’re going to have a couple of by-products.  First, you get smoke and second, you get grease. Both can be good in moderation, but you need to be careful as well. Too much grease can cause the flames to get too high or hot, and at a minimum, burn the food. You want to make sure the grease can’t leak out of the grill and spread to other areas (like the floor) where it could catch on fire and create a big problem. Smoke will help make the food taste better, but it can also be dangerous to breathe and it can also make your clothes and other items smell or become greasy. Keep the kids from playing in the smoke.

Another risk factor in grilling is the physical location of the grill. If you have the grill on a deck, porch or other flammable object, you need to be extra careful about containing the fire and the ashes. Likewise, always check what’s over the grill. If you’re on the porch and a high flame from some greasy burgers you just flipped reaches up to the roof, you don’t want your house catching on fire. You also don’t want to have your grill over or near dry grass or shrubs where the risk of fire would be a concern.

American burgers and beer can’t be beat. However, if the focus is on beer, let someone else do the grilling. Mix a little precaution and sprinkle in a few safety measures and you’ll be certain to have a great grilling experience cooked up in your plan to be safe.

Stay safe!