The summer grilling season is here and that means for a lot of folks, outdoor fun with food, family and friends. Before you head outside this summer, here are a few reminders. Let us teach you to grill safely.
First things first, give the grill a thorough inspection. For charcoal grills, remove the bricks and brush out the ash. Next, clean the grates with a long-handled stiff wire brush. Always wipe the grate down after scrubbing to remove any wire bristles that may have come off. Next, use a clean towel to apply vegetable oil to the grates. A propane grill is cleaned the same way. Finally, remember to check the tank for fuel and examine the lines and connections to ensure everything is in proper working order.
It is a good idea to keep a multipurpose fire extinguisher handy. Remember “PASS”:
- Pull the pin
- Aim low at the base of the fire
- Squeeze the handle to dispense
- Sweep from side to side
Aside from the risk of fire, smoke inhalation or carbon monoxide poisoning can occur. Keep a first aid kit handy for cuts or burns. Most importantly, keep focused on what you are doing.
Make sure to keep your grill at least ten feet from your home and give it space. Keep patio furniture, children’s toys, pool equipment etc. far enough away that no embers could catch fire. Also be aware of what is above you. It is wise to check for tree limbs, phone lines or porch awnings.
Set up a workstation near the grill, this will give you a place for serving platters, tongs, spatulas and seasonings. It is more enjoyable to cook out when you have what you will need close at hand. Having things like towels, hand wipes, and a meat thermometer within easy reach makes grilling easier as well.
As for the actual food itself, most foodborne illness is caused by improperly held or cooked foods.
Do not put frozen meat on the grill, as this will result in a tough texture and uneven cooking. Keep one side of the grill hotter than the other. This will allow you to rotate and flip the meat as it is cooking. As your food cooks, move it to the cooler side of the grill to keep it warm and avoid overcooking.
Separate your food, keep raw foods away from anything you are not going to cook as a means to avoid cross-contamination. For example, use different colored cutting boards for raw beef and chicken. Make sure you wash with soap and water anything the raw meat has come into contact with utensils, cutting boards, and your hands.
Keep your food refrigerated until it is time to grill. If you are dining outside, buy dish covers for your buffet. They are relatively inexpensive and will keep insects out of the food. Any leftover food from grilling needs to be kept at 140 F or hotter or refrigerated within two hours.
Finally, make certain to cook foods to their proper internal temperature. You will need a thermometer to be sure. Here are some guidelines when it comes to temperatures:
- Whole chicken or turkey – 165 F
- Boneless chicken or turkey breast – 165 F
- Ground chicken or turkey – 165 F
- Hamburgers, ground beef – 160 F
- Beef roasts or steaks
- Medium Rare – 145 F
- Medium – 160 F
- Well Done – 170 F
- Pork chops, roasts, or tenderloins – 145 F for at least three minutes of resting time
- Ground pork and organ meats – 160 F
- Fish – 145 F
- Hot dogs – 165 F steaming hot
Should you keep these simple guidelines in mind, you will have a much happier time grilling.
In an effort to further drive home the importance of the best way to grill safely, here are some more “Do’s and Don’ts” to take into consideration:
1. Keep your grill at least ten feet away from your house, carports, garages, and porches, or used underneath wooden overhangs. Take note that this applies to both gas and charcoal grills.
2. Clean your grill on a regular basis. If grease and fat build up, they become very prone to fire, providing more fuel to the fire as grease is a major reason flare ups occur.
3. Check for gas leaks!
- Make a solution of half water and half liquid dish soap
- Rub on the hoses and connections
- Turn gas on (with the grill lid open)
- If large soap bubbles form, that is a sign that the hoses have tiny holes in them or, the connections are not tight enough
4. Keep decorations like hanging baskets, throw pillows, and umbrellas as they too provide much-needed fuel for a fire. Make special note that today’s outdoor decor is made mostly from artificial fibers that burn very fast and are extremely hot.
5. Keep handy a spray bottle of water. Should you have a minor flare-up, it can be sprayed to calm it down instantly, and it will not ruin the food.
6. Have a fire extinguisher next to the grill or within an arm’s length reach. Learn how to use it first. See the above directions, look it up on YouTube, read its’ directions or call your local fire department for assistance and emergency guidelines.
7. EVER turn on the gas while your grill lid is still closed. Gas builds up inside your grill, and when the lid is opened, a fireball most likely will explode in your face.
8. EVER leave a grill unattended. Plan ahead.
9. EVER overload the grill with too much food, especially with fatty meats like hamburgers. If too much fat should drip onto the flames at once, a significant flare-up could happen that cannot necessarily be kept under control with a personal fire extinguisher, let alone a spray bottle filled with water.
10. EVER use a grill indoors. In addition to the obvious fire hazard, grills release carbon monoxide, the deadly colorless, odorless gas that needs to vent in the fresh air, or it can kill you, your family, and your pets.