How To Keep Your Cookout Safe

Grilling and barbecuing are American summer traditions. But more and more Americans are grilling year-round than ever before. Grilling is fun (and tasty), but it can also be dangerous if you aren’t careful.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, over a recent five-year stretch nearly 17,000 individuals visited the emergency room because of grilling-related burns and injuries. During a single year, an average of 9,600 home fires are caused by grills, hibachis or barbecues.

Fire safety and grills

Whether you grill with gas, charcoal or wood, there are a few simple steps you can take to help ensure a safe grilling experience.

  • Keep your grill at least 10 feet away from your house or any other structure.
  • Don’t use a grill inside your garage or covered carport.
  • Clean your grill regularly – grease and fat build-up are extremely flammable.
  • Never leave a grill unattended.
  • Don’t overload your grill with food.
  • Keep a spray bottle of water close by for minor flare-ups and a fire extinguisher in case of an emergency.
  • Check for rust on metal grills, especially on the cooking grates.

For gas grills – regularly check for gas leaks. Wipe a solution of half liquid dish soap and half water on the hoses and connections and turn on the gas. If there are bubbles, you have a leak. Also, remember to open the grill lid before you turn on the gas.

For charcoal grills – use only proper charcoal starter fluid. If the fire gets low, use kindling or more charcoal – not more starter fluid.

Prepare and cook foods safely

When we think about grill safety, we often forget about proper grilling of meat, poultry and fish. Preparing and grilling food outside requires the same care and attention as if you were cooking inside.

Always wash your hands with soap and warm water before and after handling raw foods and make sure your work surface, utensils and the grill are clean before you cook. If you use a wire bristle brush, check the grill’s surface before you cook anything. Wire bristles from grill cleaning brushes may come loose and get stuck in the food you’re grilling.

Use a food thermometer to make sure your meat has been cooked to the proper temperature – hot enough to kill any germs. If you’re using a smoker, keep temperatures inside the smoker at 225°F to 300°F to keep meat a safe temperature while it cooks.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), different types of food have different standard cooking temperatures to take note of.

  • All poultry and pre-cooked meats, like hot dogs – 165°F
  • Hamburgers and other ground beef – 160°F
  • Fish – 145°F
  • Whole cuts of beef, pork, lamb and veal – 145°F

Also, never leave your marinated food out of the refrigerator over two hours. Bacteria grows best in temperatures between the range of 40 to 140 degrees. Hot food should stay at or above 140 degrees and cold food should stay at or below 40 degrees.

When the meal is over, divide leftovers into small portions and put them in a covered, shallow container and refrigerate them within two hours of cooking (one hour if it’s 90°F or hotter outside).

These easy-to-follow tips will help you and your family stay safe so you can enjoy grilling and all the delicious foods that come with it year-round.



This content is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing professional, financial, medical or legal advice. You should contact your licensed professional to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.

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