A Grill Safety Reminder

Written by Jeff Gutkowski

As restrictions on dining at Pennsylvania restaurants dragged on through the summer, the workload on many family barbecue grills increased proportionately. The charcoal briquette was invented by Ellsworth Zwoyer of Reading, PA in 1897, and has not changed very much since then. The popularity of grilling at home ignited (pun intended) in 1919, when Henry Ford used the wood waste from his auto production lines to develop the Kingsford brand, which is still dominant today. Whether your preference is gas, charcoal, or wood pellets, using the grill more often means more upkeep and maintenance for safe grilling.

Burp your Green Egg

On average, 17,000 Americans end up in the emergency room every year because of grilling injuries, which are predominantly burns. Admittedly, it’s easy to become complacent about buildup and grease when grilling so often, but we all need to stay vigilant when cooking over open flames, especially foods with higher fat contents, like burgers, chicken or salmon with skins, or marinated meats and vegetables.  This is a lesson of which my own grill reminded me last week, while grilling untrimmed, porterhouse steaks on my Green Egg. The Egg judged me guilty of a “roll through the stop sign” type of “burp,” and not the safer, “bring your vehicle to a full stop” type “burp.” Those with Green Eggs will understand and be familiar with these burping sounds. The justice for the violation was swift and obvious. Fortunately, the punishment was merely a warning consisting of some burnt hair and eyebrows as the flashback climbed out of the Egg and ruined my haircut.  

Top safety tips

So, here’s a quick list to make the whole grilling season safe. This is in no particular order, but I’ll be paying strict attention to number 10 going forward:

  1. Make sure the grill is outside and away from structures that could catch fire, including overhangs and deck railings.
  2. Keep children and pets away from any active grill.
  3. Never leave a lit grill unattended, i.e. ask someone to get you a beer.
  4. Clean the grates and the inside of the grill of grease buildup before use.
  5. Empty the grease catch regularly.
  6. Never turn the gas on with the grill closed and never light a closed grill.
  7. If the gas grill won’t light, turn off the gas, open the lid, and give the gas time to dissipate before attempting to re-light.
  8. Let your starter fluid “soak” into your briquettes before lighting.
  9. Trim meats of excess fat before putting them on the grill.
  10.  “Burp” the grill before fully opening the lid, especially when grilling anything with high fat content or skins.
  11. Keep a water spray bottle for little flare ups and a fire extinguisher handy.
  12. Wait 24 hours for coals to fully extinguish and only remove the ashes to a metal container.