Before you pull out your grill and start cooking this spring, be sure you’ve taken the necessary precautions to ensure a safe cookout. If you packed it away for winter, it’s especially important to double check everything after months of disuse. Nevertheless, by following these few simple tips, you can be back up and grilling safely in no time!
Step 1: Set it up in a safe place
Experts recommend keeping your grill at least 10 feet away from the exterior of your house. Spaces that are still considered “indoors”—even partially—are not safe for open flames. This can include garages, carports, porches, balconies, or other areas with ceilings or overhangs that could potentially catch fire. Pay attention to low-hanging branches and deck railings, as well, that could fall within that 10-foot radius. Moreover, make sure you set up your grill on a stable, flat surface, so it won’t tip over when in use.
Step 2: Check for leaks
If you have a gas grill, it’s essential that you check your propane tank for potential leaks before lighting it for the first time this season. You can do so safely with a light mixture of soap and water. If you apply this to the hose that connects the propane tank and grill, then turn on the gas, a leak will be identifiable with bubbles. Other signs of trouble include the smell of gas and/or a grill that won’t light.
Step 3: Make sure your grill is clean
Maybe you already did this before putting your grill away for the winter season, but it doesn’t hurt to give it a quick scrub. Try to remove as much grease/fat buildup as you can from both the grill itself, as well as the tray below. Failure to do so can result in dangerous grease fires.
For a thorough cleaning, you should disconnect the gas before taking the grill apart piece by piece. Then, dunk the parts in soapy water whenever possible and scrub any stubborn residue with a wire brush. If you notice that paint is peeling, or rust is forming, you may need to apply a fresh coat of paint to prevent undesirable materials from making their way into your food. Afterward, you can reassemble your clean grill and test the gas connections again. (Note: these recommendations also work for charcoal grills, which should be cleaned after each use.)
Step 4: Be prepared
Now, this includes some common sense things, as well as some more specific precautions. For example, you wouldn’t want to leave a lit grill unattended, or wear loose, billowy clothing that could catch fire if they dangle a little too closely. You may not know, though, that if your grill flame goes out, you should turn everything off and wait 5 minutes before attempting to relight it.
Unfortunately, you also need to be ready for the worst case scenario: fire. Keep baking soda on hand in the event of a grease fire. You can use a (functional) fire extinguisher for all other types of fires, but if that’s not available, you should have a bucket of sand within arm’s reach. Never, we repeat never, use water or a traditional fire extinguisher to put out a grease fire! You may also want to have a phone close by if the situation gets beyond your control.
We want you to use your grill (and deck) as much as possible now that the weather’s warming up! Additionally, we want you to be safe while you do so. Follow these few steps and you should have a season filled with delicious food and successful cookouts!