There’s nothing like the joy of family barbecues during spring and summer: the warmth of the sun on our skin, fun conversations with our loved ones, refreshing cocktails and beer, and delectable and well-marinated meats on the grill.
But we also can’t deny that outdoor kitchens and barbecue stations also pose many health and fire hazards. If you and your family are gearing up for some backyard picnics this spring and summer, here are some health and safety guidelines you need to remember to prevent fires and food poisoning.
Here are some fire-safety measures you need to take:
- Make sure your grill has its own space. While it’s understandable that you might want to be under the shade while grilling, placing your grill too close to a tree branch or an awning can be dangerous because floating embers might spark a fire. Regardless of what your grill is, whether it’s gas or charcoal, make sure it’s at least ten feet away from your plants, trees, deck railings, furniture, home, garage, and other structures. Give yourself enough distance as well; make sure to use long-handled tools that were manufactured specifically for grilling. Keep your children and pets safely away from the grilling station as well.
- Invest in the right gear. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher handy during your grilling sessions. Some fireproof or non-flammable clothes and masks might also be good for alleviating your anxiety while you barbecue. Avoid wearing flowy or loose clothes or dresses since they can easily catch fire.
- Don’t leave your grill unattended. Especially if you have kids and pets around—make sure someone is always keeping an eye on the grill or the stove. Don’t grill too many pieces of food simultaneously; be slow and steady in your process.
- Don’t start a gas grill while the lid is closed. This is perhaps one of the most rookie mistakes you can make and one of the most dangerous. Doing this might cause a gas buildup in your grill, which can then turn into a fireball. Make sure that the lid of your gas grill is open when you’re lighting it, and if the flame goes out, turn both the grill and the gas off. Don’t try lighting it up again for at least five minutes.
- Don’t forget to turn off your grill. Sometimes, we get so excited about our cooked food that we forget to turn off the grill. As soon as you’re done with all the cooking, let the coals cool off completely before disposing of them in a metal container. If you’re using a gas grill, be quick to turn off all the burners and all the fuel supply.
Here are some health and food safety precautions you need to remember:
- Avoid cross-contaminating your food. When you’re in charge of the grill, you have a responsibility to ensure that everything you put on the table is as safe and healthy as possible. Raw meats and poultry have germs and bacteria that can make people sick if they’re not cooked properly. To avoid this, make sure to always wash your hands thoroughly in between meats and dishes. Don’t just use water or alcohol; use soap as well. Throw away any sauces and marinades that touched raw poultry or meat. Use clean plates and utensils to fetch cooked meat from the grill or stove.
- Use a meat thermometer. When it comes to cooking meat, you should remember that harmful bacteria are only killed after it’s been heated to a certain temperature. A meat thermometer will help you determine if the meat is cooked thoroughly and all the way through.
- Immediately serve the meats that were cooked first. Ensure that the meats are served within two hours and before the food’s temperature drops under 140 degrees. Never leave cooked food at room temperature for more than two hours, especially during the summer.
- Be maniacal about cleanliness. Make sure to wipe every counter, every surface, and every tool that touches raw meats and poultry. Again, especially if you have kids around who have a penchant for tasting everything. The last thing you want is them gaining access to anything that touched raw meats and poultry.
These safety measures and precautions may seem like overkill, but they work to ensure that you and your family are always safe during your backyard barbecue parties. Don’t let untoward incidents get in the way of something you enjoy as a family; mitigate potential fire and safety hazards before they even happen.