Tips for BBQ and Grill Safety

June 16, 2010
by Rachel Balik
July 4th weekend is almost here. When you start lighting a fire in your backyard and spending quality time with slabs of raw meat, you need to be cautious. Here are some tips for safe and fun grilling.

Food Safety

Safe grilling starts at the supermarket, where you should make sure that meat is the last thing you purchase before heading to the cashier. You don’t want your steak warming up in the shopping cart while you scrutinize mushrooms and onions in the produce aisle. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service also recommends driving home immediately after you’re done shopping.

Getting your food from the freezer or refrigerator to the table also requires employing certain safety practices to ensure your food doesn’t get contaminated on its journey. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety & Applied Nutrition gives instructions on how to pack food and keep it cold, which is especially important if you are traveling to a picnic site at a distance from your house. The bottom line: you need to keep food cold. You also need to properly seal food and prevent “cross-contamination.” In other words, don’t let the raw hamburger meat you plan on charring come into contact with the tomato you plan to serve raw.

Once you’ve gotten your food out of the fridge, be sure to follow the safe grilling tips provided by the FDA. Some might surprise you: for example, you cannot marinate your food outdoors, or even on your kitchen counter. Do it in the fridge. And once you cook something partially, do not wait to finish the job. Keep a thermometer on hand to check that you’ve fully cooked everything at the appropriate temperature. Cooking temperatures for various dishes are listed on the site.

When it comes time to serve, do not put your cooked food back on the same plate where you kept raw meat. It seems obvious, but that caveat from the USDA is probably ignored or forgotten more than we’d like to admit. And in this case, the 5-second rule does not apply

You Can’t Start a Fire

Review important safety issues before you even start grilling. For example, the New York City Fire Department recommends keeping your grill 10 feet. from your house. That way, if you do accidentally start a fire, you won’t burn down anything important. You also want to avoid putting your grill near anything flammable, such as a wooden deck.

A charcoal grill is safer than a propane grill. However, if you do choose propane, Medical News Today advises you to inspect your grill for leaks and light the match before turning on the propane. Once your grill is going, keep cigarettes, matches and lighters far out of the way.

While you’re barbecuing, continue to keep safety in mind. The NYFD warns against loose-fitting clothing and squirting lighter fluid into a fire, and suggests that someone always be watching the grill.

Reduce your risk of getting burned by having hot pads and insulated gloves ready, and keep your fire just small enough to cook your food. If you’re consuming alcoholic beverages, drink them far away from the flames. The Health On the Net Foundation recommends skipping the beer while you grill, because drinking impairs your judgment and increases your risk of injury.

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