Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Grilling outdoors is a time-honored American tradition. Keep it a safe experience for your family and friends.

Americans have a love affair with barbeque, and Memorial Day is the unofficial kickoff for grills, smoke and sauce. Getting family and friends together for a meal is one of the pleasures we enjoy the most, but keeping the experience safe is a must.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that each year outdoor grills cause an average of 7,700 house fires and $80 million in property damage. Here are some grilling tips to avoid being a statistic this summer.

Regardless of the type of grill you favor, it should be located outdoors and in a clear area. Place your grill away from siding, deck railings, eaves and overhanging branches. DO NOT grill in a garage or enclosed space. That’s just setting yourself up for a fire.

Kids are a big part of barbeques and when they get together, there is usually a lot of running around. The NFPA recommends setting up a three-foot kid-free zone around the grill to ensure safety.

The cook should use long-handled grilling tools for clearance from heat, flame and hot grease. Don’t wear loose-fitting clothes that may catch on fire.

Gas grill enthusiasts should check out the gas tank hose for leaks before using it at the beginning of the season and periodically during the summer. Obstructions in the fuel path are the number one reason for gas fires. At the first sign of a leak, turn the grill off and have it serviced by a professional.

Charcoal grilling also has its hazards. The first problem begins with lighting the charcoal with lighter fluid. Use the fluid only to start a fire, never when the coals are burning. Lighter fluid turns to a heavy gas at a low temperature, which will explode easily. Rather than deal with lighter fluid at all, use a charcoal chimney stuffed with newspaper on the bottom to start your coals. Much less risk, and you also avoid the carcinogenic effect of chemicals.

Should you have a grill fire, move everyone away from the area and call 911. Really, don’t let your ego get the better of you and your guests.

Beer and barbequed brats go together, but not for the grill master. Don’t drink and barbeque at the same time. You’ll need a clear head to produce a fine meal and stay safe. Have that congratulatory drink when you guests are raving about what a great cook you are.

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