Whether you’re in the market for a deluxe propane grill or a portable, charcoal Weber or using the same charcoal barbecue smoker from last year like I am for this season’s round of BBQ dinners and parties, keep safety in mind.
Consider: Gas grills are involved in an average of 6,900 home fires per year; charcoal grills cause another 1,100 of them, according to the National Fire Protection Association, in Quincy, Mass. Moreover, roughly 17,700 people show up at emergency departments because of injuries involving grills each year.
“Hot charcoal can get up to 1,000 degrees Farenheit,” says John Drengenberg, the director of consumer affairs at Underwriters Laboratories (UL), in Northbrook, Ill. It only takes a second to cause serious damage. And grilling isn’t a special-occasion activity anymore. “About 3 billion meals are served every year off of grills,” Drengenberg says. “Grilling can become so routine that you don’t think about the safety aspects.” Here’s a reminder:
Check your gas grill for leaks before using it for the first time. Make a diluted dish soap and water solution and apply it where the hose connects to the burner and to the propane tank. If you see bubbles, turn off the supply tank and tighten the hose connections. Check hoses, too, for cracks or teeth marks, to make sure rodents haven’t gnawed them over the winter. A flame near a leaky propane hose can cause fire. Make sure rodents or insects haven’t made nests in grill burners, too and clean out any leaves as well.
Don’t use gas or kerosene to start a charcoal grill. The fumes of both are highly flammable. Use bonafide lighter fluid instead. But don’t dump on more lighter fluid to hurry your coals along, which can cause a dangerous flare up.
Always grill outdoors. If you’ve got a portable grill and the weather looks threatening, don’t take the grill into your garage or your bathtub and finish up your cooking there. Your house is flammable and your garage may contain explosives, such as gas.
Make room. Keep your grill 10 feet away from your house, deck railings and from under eaves and overhanging branches.
Always keep a water-filled spray bottle handy. A spritz of water can extinguish flare-ups quickly without damaging your food.
Have a fire extinguisher nearby. Get an UL A-rated fire extinguisher, which is meant for wood and paper and keep it near your grill just in case a fire breaks out. “Hopefully, you’ll never have to use it, but just keep it handy,” Drengenberg says.
Let coals cool. When you’re cooking, let the coals cool completely before disposing of them in a metal container. Paper and plastic are flammable and even though coals may look cool, they stay hot in the center for hours.
Keep back. Keep kids and pets at least three feet away from the grill.
Check Recalls.gov at the start of your barbecure season to make sure your grill hasn't been recalled. For more great tips from Consumer Reports, click here. Happy grilling!