With summertime in full swing, BBQ enthusiasts everywhere are firing up their grills and dishing out flame-cooked meals for their outdoor parties and picnics. The smells wafting from an open grill or BBQ rotisserie are as synonymous with summer as ice cream and beach balls, but there are several key safety considerations that can protect both the cooks and those around them, especially since real die hard BBQ aficionados will cook almost every meal on the grill during the peak season.
1. BBQ in a fireproof location. Aside from always grilling outdoors, you should look out for anything that is close enough to be a fire risk. In particular, the grill should be placed a safe distance from buildings, yard furniture, overhanging trees, dry brush – anything that could accidentally catch fire. Your manual should indicate the proper area size that must be kept clear, so be sure to consult it before cooking. Grilling in an open space also prevents carbon monoxide poisoning, which can be a hazard even after your coals have been put out.
2. Make sure your food is properly cooked. It seems like common sense to cook meats at the right temperatures and refrigerate leftovers, but there is more than just food poisoning to worry about: Grilling meat at very high temperatures (to the point of charring) can actually increase the production of compounds (heterocyclic amines) that lead to higher cancer risks; because of this, the burnt portions of the meat have the highest concentration of HCAs. But there are ways you can greatly reduce the presence of these compounds, like cooking at low temperatures and removing blackened or charred portions before eating. In addition, marinating meat for at least 12 hours can reduce the formation of HCAs by up to 99 percent.
3. Use caution when lighting up. Charcoal grills cause more accidental fires than their gas counterparts, so be especially careful when lighting them. To prevent big flare-ups, charcoal starter fluid should be used sparingly and only on new coals; never spray lighter fluid on coals that are already lit. With propane tanks, it’s a good idea to check for any gas leaks in the hose as a precaution before using the grill. You can apply a simple solution of water and soap to the hose surface and check for bubbles – a sign of leaks.
4. Protect the pets and little ones – and yourself. It’s a given that kids and pets will be running around at a family cookout, but make sure they keep a safe distance from the BBQ area. This goes back to location; place the grill out of high-traffic areas to prevent any accidents. If you’re using a tabletop model, make sure it stays on the table, instead of on the ground where kids and pets can trip over or run into it. Be sure to also keep things like charcoal fluid and other flammable liquids out of their reach, and never leave an open fire unattended. Of course, you should also protect yourself by wearing fireproof mitts, using long-handled utensils, and keeping loose-fitting or dangling clothing out of the way.
In addition, don’t forget things like cleaning the grill and any grilling accessories thoroughly to prevent grease fires, and reading all of the instructions to become fully familiar with the grill. These small steps make a big difference and will ensure that your summer BBQ is a safe experience for everyone.
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