Grilling safety tips for all

Last Modified: 8/06/2021

safe grilling

This post was written by Thomas Arend, RDN, LD, Parkview Health.

While grilling can produce some tasty summer cuisine, it can also be dangerous. Every year, over 15,000 people in the U.S. end up in the Emergency Department due to injuries involving grills. These tips are here to keep you and your family safe while taking your grilling game up to the next level.

Tip No. 1 – Check for leaks

Before you fire up the propane grill for the season, you will want to check the line for leaks. First, make sure your burners are off, then turn on the propane valve. Next, cover the valve, line and regulator in a soapy water solution, then monitor for bubbles or a smell. Once you have ensured there aren’t any gas leaks; you can move on to the next step.

Tip No. 2 – Location, location, location!

The location of your grill is pivotal in preventing fire and injuries. While I know I should not have to say this; I’m going to anyway – if your grill is inside, please take it outside, including the garage. Not only is grilling inside a fire hazard, but it can also lead to a toxic accumulation of carbon monoxide. When setting up outside, make sure you are at least 10 feet away from any flammable hazards. Vinyl siding, deck railings and tree branches can all catch fire when too close to a grill. Also, it’s best to establish a location for your grill that is not a high-traffic area. Staying away from doors, swing sets, pools and the cornhole boards will help prevent anyone or anything from potentially knocking your grill over. Likewise, make sure all people and pets are a safe distance away from the grill. When you finally have your grill in position, be sure to double-check that it is level and cannot easily get tipped over.

Tip No. 3 – Light it up

Now that your grill is in a safe, level position, it’s time to grill! When lighting a charcoal grill, make sure you use charcoal fluid and not a more dangerous accelerant. If you want to avoid flammable liquids, look into upgrading to a chimney starter or an electric charcoal starter. With a gas grill, simply turn on the propane and use the ignitor to start it. If your grill does not have an ignitor or is not working, find the slot on the side to light it with a long grill lighter. When starting a gas grill, ensure the lid is open to prevent flammable gasses from building up within the grill. Also, always have a small fire extinguisher near your grill. That way, you can be prepared in the worst-case scenario.

Tip No. 4 – Forego the food poisoning

Not only is your duty to prevent injury from the grill, but it is also to prevent foodborne illness. You may never be trusted again as a grill master if everyone at your gathering ends up with food poisoning. So, to ensure a successful event, the two things you should focus on regarding food safety include:

  • Cross-contamination: This happens when bacteria get transferred from raw meat to cooked food. To prevent cross-contamination, anything that touches raw meat must not touch any cooked food. For example, do not use the same platter for the cooked burgers you used for the raw ones. If your hands touch raw meat, wash them before touching anything else. If you have any utensils that handle raw meat, it’s best to have another set to handle the cooked meat. All these tips will help you prevent foodborne illness.
  • Proper cooking temperature: To kill the potentially harmful bacteria in certain meats, you must grill them to a specific temperature. Ground meat must have an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Steaks, pork chops and roasts must reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, and fish need to be at an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

A quality instant-read meat thermometer may help you know when you've reached proper internal temperatures for each food item. On the other hand, some of your guests may prefer a rarer burger or cut of meat, but it may not be possible to reach a safe temperature while also meeting their preferences.

Tip No. 5 – Clean up

Once you’ve grilled all the food, turn off the propane tank valve and start cleaning up. When cleaning off your grill, please do not use a wire brush. The wire bristles tend to break off and eventually find their way into your food. Instead, use a pumice stone or a bristle-free brush. If you have a charcoal grill, it’s best to wait at least 48 hours before getting rid of the coals, so they are adequately cooled off. Then, place them in a metal trash can or wrap them up in aluminum foil.

Bonus tip!

Now that you know how to grill safely, here are some tasty grilling tricks of the trade:

  • Grill fish on top of lemons to prevent them from sticking to the grate.
  • Boil your bratwurst in beer before grilling.
  • Turn meat less often. One time is optimal to keep the juices in.
  • Cleaning your grate with half an onion can prevent sticking and enhance flavor.
  • Dessert on the grill is a must! Try filling an ice cream cone with chocolate and marshmallows for some grilled s’more deliciousness.

So, with all these grilling safety tips, you, your friends and your family can have a safe and tasty grilling season.

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