It should go without saying that barbecuing can be dangerous. There always seem to be some who haven’t grasped that grills are hot and tools are sharp, so here are our barbeque safety tips.
For some, pointing out the obvious will have no effect. But for others, listing some easy-to-implement protocols can save a burned hand or lost eye. If young children are around, those habits are even more important. They haven’t yet learned that a barbeque is anything more than a big black box.
Be aware of the dangers
The first key to any safe practice is awareness. Because it’s static and relatively quiet, it’s easy to forget that barbeques are hot, full of smoke, can spit up flames at unexpected moments and splatter grease the moment you turn your head aside.
When you’re about to lift the lid on your grill, approach the barbeque as if it might contain a wild animal. If you’re at the pre-heat stage, you can expect a big blast of hot air in the face. Only, ensure that your face isn’t over the grill and it won’t be a problem.
If you’ve been cooking for a few minutes or more, smoke will most likely have built up as some of the meat becomes carbonized. Getting a grill or smoker that has handles on the side, rather than solely in front, can be a big help here. Lifting as you stand to the side will avoid most of the smoke, which tends to shoot out the (larger) open area in the front.
If you use a charcoal grill, and even with some gas or electrics, it’s helpful to have a spray bottle of water within easy reach. That helps douse any grease-induced flame tongues that leap up. It’s also very useful for spraying your hands, arms or even face if you get flamed or grease spattered.
Many grease splatters won’t be helped much by spraying because the grease repels the water. But spraying helps reduce their temperature on the skin quickly, so it does help some. That’s true of any kind of burn, too. Sprayed heavily enough, it’s possible to wash off the grease entirely. NEVER put butter on a burn, which only provides a medium for burning the skin even more. That is, as it were, putting fuel to the fire.
Use the correct equipment
Having the right tools and taking your time is always a good idea. If you’re new to certain activities, like unthreading kabob over the grill or turning a fish basket, practice over a flat spot in the kitchen. When you’ve mastered the physical movements in a cool, safe environment, you’re less likely to have accidents over the grill.
Still, be prepared for the unexpected. Steaks stick, burgers break in two, chicken skin peels off. Spraying the grill to minimize that may or may not work depending on your grill type, recipe and other factors. But always be ready. And never let your desire to ‘save the meal’ get you into trouble. No piece of meat is worth a bad burn.
Always let things cool down
After you’re done, always let the grill cool before attempting some types of clean up. Many clean up guides will say that scraping a hot grill is easier than cleaning a cold one. That’s true, since as the material cools it bonds to the grill. But scraping from a distance is safe. Cleaning with a wire brush is foolish, since you’ll invariably fling hot bits of material onto your skin and possibly into your eyes. Better to wait and take longer cleaning up.
Practice safe barbecuing, especially when you’re not the only one around who may pay for your mistakes.