Truth be told, it doesn’t take much of an excuse for us to host a barbecue, really – man has loved meat and fire almost since the beginning of time. But just because our desire to barbecue seems to be innate, that doesn’t mean we’re born with the skills to grill (safely, that is). Here are a few pointers to help you avoid hosting a barbecue after party featuring your local fire department and home insurance company as special guests. After reading these tips, be sure to review our backyard safety guide, too.
Grilling Safety Tips
- Read the owner's manual before using your grill and follow specific usage, assembly, and safety procedures.
- Open the grill lid before you light it.
- Never leave a grill unattended.
- Make sure you use the grill at least 10 feet away from your house.
- Grills are for outside use, only. Never barbecue in your trailer, tent or house. Don’t light the grill inside a garage, even if the door is open. This is a dangerous fire hazard and can cause high levels of carbon monoxide.
- Make sure the barbecue is on flat ground or a stable base (can’t be tipped over) and away from fences and hanging branches.
- Check the wind direction and adjust the location of your grill as necessary.
- Light barbecues with a long match or mechanical lighter specific to barbecues. Use long-handled tools and flame-retardant mitts. Don’t wear loose clothing.
- Keep a spray bottle of water handy for minor flare-ups. Have a fire extinguisher (and know how to use it), and a bucket of water or garden hose nearby in case a fire starts. Never use water on a grease fire; instead, spread baking soda over the flames.
- Clean your grill regularly. Grease and fat provide extra fuel and can be a major cause of grill fires.
Charcoal Grill Safety Tips
- It’s only necessary to use enough charcoal to cover the base of the grill about two inches deep.
- Charcoal briquettes emit carbon monoxide, so use as little lighter fluid as possible. Let the fluid soak into the coals a few minutes before lighting them so the gas can evaporate. Never add more fluid once the coals are burning and don’t use gasoline or kerosene to start the fire.
- Allow coals to burn out completely or soak them in water before disposing of them. After they’re cool, don’t put the ashes into a paper bag or garbage can. Instead, wrap the ashes in foil and put them in an empty, non-combustible container,
- Keep extra charcoal in a metal container with a tight-fitting lid to keep it dry.
Gas Barbecue Safety Tips
- Check for gas leaks by rubbing a solution made of liquid soap and water on the hoses and connections. Turn the gas on (with the grill lid open). If you see bubbles, that's a sign that there are holes in the hoses or the connections are not tight enough.
- Check for rusted burners. You can find replacement burners in hardware stores or buy them from the manufacturer of your grill.
- Clean the venturi tubes (the tubes that extend from the burner to the control valves) regularly. Spiders and other insects can build nests in the tubes, interfering with gas flow and making the flame uneven and dangerous.
- Make sure your liquid propane gas cylinder is not overfilled. Never store extra cylinders indoors and don’t use expired cylinders.
- Consider using ceramic briquettes instead of lava rocks that can catch fire.