Keep Your Eyebrows: Summer Grilling Safety

Nothing ruins a summer barbecue more than rain than…burning the house down. Keep these 5 safety tips in mind when you're manning the grill, and we'll make sure the only thing that's charbroiled are your hamburgers.

By Monica Whitening

There’s nothing more suave than a man who knows what to do with his meat. Long and slow or hard and fast, there’s a real skill when it comes to grilling your dinner.

Predictable euphemisms aside, blissful summer evenings are creeping up the horizon, so it’s high time we dust off the tongs and start stockpiling charcoal.

But hold your horses just a second there fella; this is fire we’re talking about. Yes, you’re a man and yes, you stole it from the gods, but that doesn’t mean you know everything there is to about this particular element.

If there’s nothing greater than a guy who can grill, there’s nothing more, um, base than a boy with no brows. So wise up.

Here are our top five grilling safety tips, hot off the barby:

1. Cloudy With A (decreasing) Chance Of Meatballs?

If it looks like your cookout is going to be rained off, do not be tempted to just move the whole shebang inside. We really cannot stress this point enough. A plethora of atrocities awaits any guy who attempts to ‘save the day’ by hoisting that gas or charcoal grill into the kitchen.

The most obvious risk of an indoor cookout is burning your house down. And when a risk like that comes along, it’s best to give it a respectful nod and ask it to move along please. No steak, however succulent, is worth the carnage of a burning home.

The second biggest, and much more sinister, risk is carbon monoxide poisoning. That’s right, it’s our friend the odorless, colorless gas that can kill without us knowing anything is wrong. CO is produced when charcoal is burned. For the love of barbecued bacon, never forget about carbon monoxide.

2. Keep It Clean Chaps

This article already has enough gender stereotyping to make the staunchest sexist balk. But hear me out. Some guys, some of you… well, you’re not so great at cleaning. And, most of the time, when it’s not, you know, life threatening, that’s ok. Sure, it’s not going to earn you that many points with the ladies or, if you’re extremely negligent, with the rest of society, but it probably ain’t going to cause serious bodily harm.

However, grills, particularly gas grills, have all sorts of tubes and openings that need to be functioning correctly. If they’re blocked or obstructed, this can lead to bad stuff, like explosions. If this is your first cookout of the season, and you can’t remember giving your favorite grill the clean it deserved at the end of last year, it’s a very good idea to get those rubber gloves out.

First up, check the tubes that lead into the burner for any blockages. You probably haven’t kept your grill in a sterilized safe, so even if it looks clean, you should check for dead insects or nests. Grab a pipe-cleaner or a piece of wire and have a poke around.

Once you’ve started giving the grill a clean, it’s a good idea to keep at it. A clean grill will give you better tasting food and decreases the small but shameful risk of food poisoning. Grease deposits are also a fire hazard and are particularly hard to put out.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) states that over 500 fires and 20 injuries occur every year from gas grill fires and explosions of grills that have not been used for several months.

3. YOU Are The Sheriff Of Grill Town

Summer is frivolous and BBQs are a summer activity, therefore BBQs are frivolous, right? Wrong. As the person in charge of the grill, you have to take full responsibility for it. Just like you should size up buildings for their potential safety from Velociraptor attacks, so too is it your duty to be aware of grilling worst-case scenarios.

Wooing a long-haired lady friend by showing off your utensils? Request that she tie back her locks before you make your move. Low hanging trees and a bit of a breeze in the air? No-one will think less of you for getting the old chainsaw out before you start cooking. Love to show off how obedient your dog is? Teach it to come to heel anytime except when you’re by the grill.

4. Pimp That Grill

You may have received at least one kind of grilling accessory in the last year. Whether it’s a humorous apron or a bumper pack of lighter fluid, be aware that your gift giver might not be a grilling expert such as yourself.

Before you use anything new on or near your BBQ, make sure to give it the once over. Check what it’s made from, what it’s made for, and whether it has any safety labels. For example, you should only ever use starter fluid made exclusively for BBQ grills when starting a fire in a charcoal grill. Here’s a handy stat from the National Fire Protection Authority: “Flammable or combustible gas or liquid was the item first ignited in half of home outdoor grill fires.”

5. In Case Of Fire

Let’s just run through a worst-case scenario. You’re happily cooking away and everyone is drooling at the amazing smells wafting their way. You are a god of the grill and everybody loves you. Then BOOM. Something goes wrong and suddenly, there’s a fire. You scream like a big wuss and run away. You are no longer loved by everyone and no one will ever come to your parties again.

The moral of this story is learn how to deal with a fire. Instead of the above scenario, your guests will be doubly impressed if you cope with the emergency in a calm and efficient way.

First off, evaluate. How serious is the fire? If it involves the gas tank, you should evacuate the area and dial 911. At the other extreme, if you’re just witnessing a flare up, there’s no need to panic and you should be able to handle it like a boss. If you want your meat flame grilled, keep small portions of it in the fire for a short time before moving it to another part of the grill or off the heat entirely. If, at any point, the flare up gets out of control, remove any meat that’s dripping fat. As a last resort, you can douse the fire with water or sand, but both of these will stop you being able to cook on the grill until you’ve cleaned it again.

Now that you know grill safety, learn how to light a charcoal grill.