Boring but Important Summer Grilling Safety

Now that summer is around the corner, here are some safety tips to remember this season:

1. Fire
Fire is the most destructive force in the universe and you are inviting it into your backyard for a little cookout. First thing you need is a fire extinguisher. Next you need to know your fire and know how to control it. You need to know how to cut fuel supplies, extinguish fires and call the fire department. You should also know something about treating burns.

2. Food Safety
Bacteria eat every kind of food you can think of, even Brussel sprouts. It grows at any temperature above freezing and stays alive until that temperature hits around 165 degrees F. Every second you give it between these two temperatures it is multiplying and causing disease in your food. So, until it goes in to your mouth or on the grill, it needs to be kept cool. The basic rules are: Suspect Everything, Keep it Covered, Keep it Cool, Get it Hot, and Use your Head.

3. Instructions
You’d be surprised by how many questions I get asked when the answer was in the manual. Please, read the manual. Follow all the safety restrictions to the letter. Grills, gas or charcoal, and smokers all have very specific ranges of operation. You need to know these before you light up. Don’t assume that your new grill works just like the last one.

4. Charcoal Safety
Charcoal grills are the cause of far more fires than gas grills. The number one problem with charcoal grill is lighting the charcoal. Lighter fluid causes all kinds of problems, and you should find a better way to light your coals. What really burns the hair off your face is adding lighter fluid to hot coals.

5. Smoke
Smoke gets in your hair, clothes, eyes, and lungs. While a big part of the cookout experience is the smoke, you need to be careful with smoke. Smoke from your grill or smoker contains carbon monoxide, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH), and other dangerous substances. So enjoy the smell from a distance and remember that the younger you are when you are exposed to this stuff the worse the outcome.

6. Gas Safety
The number one cause of gas grill fires is an obstruction in the path of the fuel. This largely takes place, behind, underneath or inside your grill where you do not look. This means you need to regularly inspect your gas grill for problems. At the first sign of problems turn off your control values, turn off the fuel tank, and disconnect everything. Assume everything is third degree burn hot.

7. Grease
It is bad enough that you are using flammable materials to do your cooking, but the food itself is creating more. Flare-ups are more than a nuisance, they are potentially lethal. Grease that collects in your grill builds up over time. Also, smokers are not exempt from this problem as I have seen many uncontrollable grease fires in smokers. So no matter what you use, get the grease out.

8. Location
Location is everything when it comes to placing your grill or smoker. Every year hundreds of people cause fires to their houses, garages and patios because they didn’t put their grill or smoker in the correct location. Your manual (tip #3) will tell you the minimum distances around your unit that must be kept clear.

9. Cancer
Cooking (by any method) of meats (particularly red meat and chicken) at very high temperatures until surface charring occurs can cause cancer causing substances (Heterocyclic Amines (HCA)) to form. If you eat a lot of grilled meats you need to worry (though no one knows exactly how much). To minimize the risk you need to:
• Use marinades (which can reduce the risk by as much as 98%)
• Do not overcook foods
• Keep grill temperatures relatively low (under 600 degrees cooking temperature)
• Use thinner or smaller cuts of meat (kebabs are great)

10. Alcohol
After reading the nine above you really shouldn’t have to ask. Grilling and smoking require some clear thinking, especially when it’s time to pull it all together. Please, keep a clear head and save that drink for after the fire is out and someone else is dealing with the dishes.

source: Arlington Police Department

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