Summer is here and you know what that means – outdoor cooking! Ain’t nothing like the smell of grilled chicken, smoked brisket and pulled pork! Disagree? You’re weird. That’s right. I said it. I’m a southern boy and the only thing better than good barbecue is good barbecue served with a cold glass of sweet tea. Whether you like barbecue or not, we can all agree that the only thing worse than burnt meat is a burnt chef (or the chef’s house).  
Grilling is fun, but it can also be very dangerous if you’re not safe. According to the National Fire Protection Association, July is the peak month for grill fires. So before you grab your apron, spatula, tongs, charcoal, wood and propane tanks, check out these safety tips. 

Keep it Outdoors 

Propane and charcoal grills should be used outside away from your house, overhanging tree branches, deck rails, awnings, and patio furniture. And though it may seem like a good idea on a rainy day, DO NOT light your grill on your apartment balcony or in the garage. The trapped smoke could kill you and the flames could destroy your house. Then how will you cook those delicious meats? 

Keep it Clean

Grills aren’t cheap. So keep yours in optimal working condition and be sure to remove grease and fat buildup from the grates and the trays underneath. Accumulated grease can explode and cause serious injury. As a best practice, clean your grill after each use.  

Light it Up to Grill it Up

Flames going up from a charcoal grill sitting on a pavement driveway.

If you have a gas grill, be sure to OPEN THE LID FIRST before turning on the gas and lighting it. Failure to do so could cause the gas to build up and explode. Also, check the gas hose for leaks by covering it with a little soap and water. If there’s a leak, you’ll see bubbles in the damaged area of the hose. Contact a professional to have your grill repaired. If you notice the smell of the gas while you’re cooking, step away from the grill and call 911! When lighting a charcoal grill use a charcoal chimney and light it with newspaper. If starter fluid is your preference, use charcoal starter fluid only. Once it’s lit, do not add more fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire. 

Stay Alert 

When the grill is lit, you must commit. Never leave your grill unattended. Who knows what could happen? Sparks may fly. Gas may leak. You’ve got to stand guard. Even if you only need to go in the house for a moment, allow another responsible person to replace you until you return. And children and pets are curious creatures. To keep them safe, keep them away from the grill area.  

Grill Mode: Cool Down 

After you’ve finished grilling allow the coals to cool off, then dispose them in a metal container. With gas grills, be sure to turn off the grill and the gas tank. 

Use a Meat Thermometer 

This one’s a bonus tip. It’s no fun if the meat isn’t done. After all, what good is it to practice fire safety for the cookout when you and your guests end up with food poisoning? Not sure what the temperature should be? Use this chart: 

USDA  COOKING TEMPERATURES Meal choice icons - set six meal choice option Vector ImageMeal choice icons - set six meal choice option Vector ImageMeal choice icons - set six meal choice option Vector ImageMeal choice icons - set six meal choice option Vector Image 
RARE 140⁰    
MEDIUM RARE 145⁰ 145⁰   
MEDIUM 160⁰ 160⁰   
WELL DONE 170⁰ 170⁰ 165⁰ 145⁰ 

And after you’re finished cooking, make sure you put the food away promptly! Follow these tips and you’ll have a safe, successful cookouts all summer long; assuming you’ve got the right blend of marinade, seasoning and sauce. But that’s another blog for another day.