Grilling Safety

Nothing spoils an outdoor barbecue more than burning the house down. Here are 6 tips to stay safe when grilling this summer, plus videos of cookout calamities.

For mishap-free grilling, go easy on the lighter fluid and keep baggy clothes -- including aprons -- away from the flames. Image: Mike Rengel

Don’t think you’re at risk? Over the last five years, fire departments have responded to an average of 8,200 house fires per year involving grills, hibachis, and barbecues. Most of these fires took place during June and July, the peak grilling months.

Tip 1: Barbecue only outside

Firing it up in your home, trailer, tent, or any partially enclosed area is dangerous. If the carbon monoxide doesn’t kill you, your neighbors might, especially if you set off your building’s sprinkler system by grilling on your covered balcony.

Tip 2: Grills heat up to 650 degrees or higher

Always place your grill or hibachi on a non-flammable surface. For additional protection, place a heat-resistant pad or splatter mat beneath the cooker. And FYI, plastic has an average melting point of 150 degrees.

Tip 3: Protect your home and family

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, you should barbecue at least 10 feet away from your house or any structure. Children and pets should stay at least 3 feet away from the grilling area. Just in case you need a little convincing, this visual should drive the point home.

Tip 4: Lighter fluid can be dangerous

Before starting a fire, soak coals with an accelerant made for charcoal. Never use lighter fluid on hot briquettes. Doing so causes the fluid to vaporize and become explosive. The result could be a charbroiled yard and home.

Tip 5: Proper grilling attire

Take a cue from this grill master: Don’t wear loose or baggy clothing while flipping burgers. This includes aprons, especially when your back is turned.

Tip 6: Utensils are not toys

Of course you want to keep your guests entertained at your next barbecue, but remember, playing with sharp utensils can be dangerous. You could poke an eye out or skewer a feathered friend.

Bonus tip: We ran across one more prickly grilling situation. Who thought a brush could ruin a barbecue? Hints from Heloise says there’s a new danger hidden away in your grill: bristles from wire cleaning brushes. If accidentally consumed, they could cause abdominal pain and more. Make sure that after you clean your grill with a wire brush, rinse the grill and wipe it with a paper towel to make sure no pesky wires are left.

For additional grilling safety tips, visit the following websites:

The National Fire Protection Agency

Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association

The Consumer Protection Agency