Your Top 10 Grilling Safety Questions, Answered

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(Image Credit: Rachel Joy Barehl)

The arrival of grilling season is always such a thrill. Between weeknight dinners al fresco to backyard cookouts with friends, it’s an easy time of year to love. But since most of us don’t use our grills regularly — and some of us are new to grilling this year — the cooking method brings with it a lot of questions.

Here, we’ve provided answers to some of the most common and pressing questions about grilling safety.

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(Image Credit: From left to right: Arina P Habich/Shutterstock; Jag_c/Shutterstock)

1. Which is safer: gas or charcoal?

Gas and charcoal grills each have their own set of pros and cons. There’s been debate about which is healthier, but when it comes to pure safety, one doesn’t outrank the other. If you’re deciding which type of grill to buy, it really comes down to which one fits your budget and best meets your grilling needs.

2. Where’s the best place to set up my new grill?

No matter what kind of grill you decide to purchase, it’s important to set it up on a flat, stable surface away from any structures, overhangs, or tree branches.

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(Image Credit: Rachel Joy Barehl)

3. Is it really safe to cook on public grills?

Yes, it’s absolutely safe to cook on well-used public grills — it just takes a little cleaning and know-how. The fire and high heat will kill off any germs or bacteria that might be on the grill, so as long as you get that fire rip-roaring hot, you’ll be okay.

As a rule of thumb, always start by cleaning the grill grates to scrape off any carbon or stuck-on food, and remove any ashes or debris from the bottom. Make a point to preheat the grill really well, and, while it’s not necessary, you can also cover the grates with a layer of aluminum foil.

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(Image Credit: Mia Yakel/Kitchn)

4. How often do I really need to clean my grill grates?

You’ll want to get in the habit of cleaning the grates after every grilling session, regardless of whether you’re cooking on a gas or charcoal grill. Along with food particles, grease and fat accumulate on the grates when not cleaned, and are a primary source of flare-ups. It’s also a good idea to give your grill a deep clean at the beginning of every season to make sure it runs safely and efficiently.

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5. When lighting the grill, should the lid be open or closed?

When lighting a grill, it’s safest for the lid to be open. (This really only applies to gas grills, since charcoal grills can’t be lit with the lid on.) When the lid is closed gas is trapped inside the grill, which could result in a sudden ball of fire when you open the lid.

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(Image Credit: Joe Lingeman)

6. How do I safely light a grill?

For gas grills, start by making sure the propane tank is connected and the valve is open. Then, with the lid open, turn one burner to high or “light” and then press the ignite or auto-light button on the grill. Once the first burner is lit, you can easily light the other two or three burners and adjust their heat.

The easiest, and arguably safest, way to light a charcoal grill is with a chimney starter, which eliminates the need for lighter fluid. With the grill vents open, place a chimney starter on top of the grill grates, stuff a few pieces of crumpled newspaper in the underside of the chimney starter, then fill to the top with natural lump charcoal. Light the newspaper and let the coals heat for 20 to 30 minutes before carefully pouring them into the base of your charcoal grill.

7. Where’s the best place to store the propane tank for my gas grill?

Propane is the most common type of fuel for gas grills. It’s sold in a tank, which can be refueled when it runs out. Propane tanks should always be stored outside. It’s OK to leave the tank under the grill as long as it’s disconnected and covered with a grill cover, but if you move the grill into a garage or shed, the tank needs to stay outside.

8. I think there might be a leak in the propane tank. How do I know for sure?

A leak on the host that connects the propane tank to the grill has the potential to be a serious safety concern. The smell of gas, a hissing sound when the tank is open, or if the grill fails to light are all signs that there may be a leak. Another helpful way to check is by applying a layer of soap and water to solution to the hose, then opening the valve on the tank. If there is a leak, you’ll quickly see bubbles in the soapy solution on the hose.

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(Image Credit: Leela Cyd)

9. What’s the best way to avoid flare-ups?

Not be confused with grease fires, which don’t go out quickly or easily, flare-ups are upward surges in the flame that occur from fat drippings. While not totally avoidable, there are a few things you can do to help keep flare-ups to a minimum, starting with keeping grill grates clean to remove food residue and the accumulation of grease. You can also leave the lid open when cooking fatty foods, trim the fat from meats, and minimize the amount of cooking oil used on the grates.

10. If I do get a flare-up or grease fire, how do I control it?

If a flare-up doesn’t quickly fizzle out on its own, move the food to another area of the grill away from the flame. This is another good reason to use zone cooking, giving you the option for direct and indirect heat. Another option, if using a gas grill, is to turn the burner down or totally off. And since fire needs oxygen to thrive, covering the grill will also help extinguish the flame.

If a serious flare-up or grease fire occurs, don’t panic. The most important thing is that you know how to control it, so it doesn’t get out of hand. Remember that baking soda or salt, not water, is the safer way to tame the flame.

Published: about 1 hour ago



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