January 02, 2022
By Lynn Burkhead
There are few things in America that people enjoy in their lives more than good food, great company and an enjoyable time.
This is why summertime grilling season is so immensely popular from coast-to-coast, a time when warm weather, family and friends, and tasty meals all collide out on the back deck as the afternoon sun slowly sinks towards the horizon.
While outdoor cooking on a gas grill, pellet smoker or a grated surface fired by a wood or charcoal flame is indeed a popular activity that is generally safe, that doesn’t mean that’s it’s a thoughtless endeavor either. As with any type of activity where a fire is involved, safety considerations can never be ignored because of time, convenience and the desire to multi-task.
With that in mind, be sure to keep the well-being of you and your guests as the evening’s most important goal, adhering to the idea of safety first.
While the following isn’t an exhaustive list concerning this idea, it is a start so that by evening’s end, your get together is fondly remembered for the smoky food hot off the grill … and not a need to call the local fire department.
1. A Safe Area Is Key
When the sun is shining brightly for a summertime gathering out back, most of us want to be comfortable while we’re recreating outdoors or cooking a meal.
But for the backyard griller, the problem is comfort can never outweigh safety considerations, even if that means wiping away a few extra beads of sweat. Meaning, if necessary, your grill is never placed and cooked upon in an area of shade if such a spot happens to be too close to objects that can accidentally catch fire.
To ensure that’s the case, be sure your grill is far enough away from your home, garage, or other manmade structures like deck railing or seats. In general, you’ll want to keep the grill at least 10 feet away from anything that can potentially catch fire.
Also, consider the ground surface you’re cooking on. That means keeping flammable objects and ground debris (leaves, sticks, etc.) away from your cooking area. And while a stable fireproof mat that the grill sits upon can be a reasonable idea, in general, a gas grill would seem to be a safer option when cooking out on a wooden deck surface.
2. Be Present
One of the most basic rules of grilling safely is to be there when the flames are doing their smoky magic. In other words, if you’re going to safely grill on your backyard deck, don’t leave the fire unattended since a pet chasing a ball, a child playing catch, or even an unexpected gust of wind can cause unintended consequences.
To ensure you’re able to watch your flaming masterpiece as it sizzles, gather all of the ingredients and supplies you’ll need beforehand. Also have a clear working space where you can prepare food, add spices and marinades, and cut up portions as needed.
And if you need something from inside the house, be sure you have a way to communicate along with making sure someone is available to help as needed.
3. Air It Out
Needless to say, grilling indoors is a bad idea. Because it’s not just the fire hazard that causes risk, it’s also the invisible specter of carbon monoxide gas that can build up and do it’s silent and deadly work.
When grilling out back, don’t ever do so in a tightly covered or confined area—like under a roof, for instance—as well as ensuring there is always adequate air flow and ventilation available.
4. Open for Business
If you’re a backyard chef who relies on a gas grill, be sure you never—as in NEVER—light the grill when the lid is closed.
Put simply, lighting a fire with a gas grill’s lid closed is similar to lighting the fuse on a bomb. Because if gas builds up too much under the grill’s closed lid, a spark or flame can ignite a fireball that can endanger both property and people.
Before striking a match or hitting the grill’s ignition button, always open the grill’s lid and let any built-up gas adequately dissipate first.
5. Go Small
In today’s pressure-packed society where time is money, it’s often tempting to cut corners or try and do too much at once.
While that might not be a big problem in many endeavors, on a grill that is cooking meat, it can be an invitation for a fiery mishap.
Why is that? Because as fatty meats cook, grease is dripping into the flame, often causing big flareups. That problem can turn into a potential disaster when and if grease traps below the grate ignite and turn into an inferno.
While big flames shooting up might look amazing on the big screen as a movie’s Hollywood special effects thrill us, you don’t want to see that happen when you’re grilling out on the back deck.
In addition to being a potential property and bodily hazard, flames roaring out of control can also ruin your backyard meal and burn the costly steaks and other meats that are sizzling on the grill.
Meaning that if you don’t grill with a little bit of extra caution, an expensive meal can go down the drain quickly and leave you scrambling for the phone number of the nearest pizza place.
With some common sense and adherence to basic grill safety rules, using a grill out back is generally a safe endeavor. And that’s good because it certainly provides the main ingredient to a meal that will be remembered for many weeks to come.
When done properly, about the only question that you’ll leave your guests asking is this: “Can I have seconds?”