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Charcoal Grill Safety for Summer

May 31 2010

With summer fast approaching,  you and all your friends will probably be taking part in the great American tradition of barbequing. 

But you want to be safe, don’t you? There are an estimated 600 barbeque related fires a year, according to the Coppel, TX Fire Department. Just follow a few safety checks to help you avoid accidents, and let the fun begin.

Keep a fire extinguisher handy at all times while barbequing and keep any combustibles at least 10 feet away from the grill.

Make sure that your grill is clean and level. You don’t want your grill to be unstable, tip over, or to cook one part of your ka-bobs faster than another. 

It’s best to clean the grill after you use it, but well after the grill has cooled down and all embers have stopped burning. Dousing the coals with water can speed up this process. But if your grill isn’t clean, you may have to use a wire brush to scrape off charcoal residue, condiments and food oils.

If you have a non-stick surface on the grate, simple soap and water will do the trick.

Next, when starting your coals, it is fine to use starter fluid, but you should only use proper fuel for coal. Starter fluids are designed to burn cleanly and not introduce harmful chemicals into your food.

Usually these containers are properly labeled with terms like “Barbeque” or “Charcoal” and are conveniently placed next to the charcoal briquettes in your grocery store. Use the starter fluid only to start the embers, not to make the fire hot enough to cook the food.

Don’t substitute paint thinners, gasoline or other incendiary chemicals. The coal will burn hot on its own.

Lastly, don’t use your barbeque pit inside your home because it’s raining. This one sounds like a no-brainer, but some 19 people die per year because of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from grilling inside. Though relatively harmless out doors with plenty of ventilation, CO can quickly accumulate to fatal levels in a contained space, and as it is odorless and colorless you won’t even know until it’s too late.

Preparation is the key to good barbequing, and putting safety first will keep the fun in your summer get-togethers.