There’s really nothing like a freshly cooked burger right off the grill. And eating with family and friends makes it all the sweeter. But what isn’t fun is the results of unsafe grilling practices — property damage and bodily injury can leave you with a sour taste. So let’s go over the basics that’ll keep you dialing up your famous Memphis ribs, not 911.
MASTER OF THE GRILL
There’s a reason your kids bought you that apron emblazoned with “Licensed to Grill.” Once the mercury goes above 50 degrees F, you’re armed with tongs and a meat thermometer. But what are the other tools you need to keep the heat on the grill instead of on your insurance premiums?
Take inventory. If you’re using propane, give your grill station a once-over before you fire it up. Check and tighten the major connections points between the tank hose and the regulator and cylinder first, and then inspect for leaks. NFPA, National Fire Protection Association, recommends applying a light soap and water solution to the hose using a brush or spray bottle and turning the propane tank on. If you see bubbles appearing around the hose, you’ve have a leak. Turn off the tank immediately and have your grill serviced.
Pay attention. If you smell gas, turn off the tank and burners. If the smell stops immediately, you’ll want to have it serviced before using it again, but if the smell continues, move away from the grill and call the fire department.
Stay at your station. Never leave a grill — charcoal or gas — unattended when in use. Designate a sous chef to run interference between you and the kitchen.
Keep it clean. We know Dad loves his seasoned cast-iron skillet (don’t you dare put it in the dishwasher), but grills are a different story. As that crusted-on, carbonized fat clinging to your grates heats up again, it’ll melt and drip into the flames, which can start a fire elsewhere in no time. So, put that fancy grill brush you got for Christmas to good use.
Geography matters. Your grill should always be placed at a good distance from your home, as well as away from eaves and overhanging branches and brush. A single ember can ignite a surface very easily in dry conditions. And always keep children and pets away from any area where dangerous chemicals (charcoal starter fluid and propane) and hot surfaces are in use.
Arm yourself. Grill the hot dogs, don’t be one — keep the television chef pyrotechnics and fancy flipping techniques in your fantasies. Make sure you’ve got heavy duty oven mitts and potholders to handle the hot stuff. And always have an operational fire extinguisher and a first-aid kit at the ready just in case.