When the nice weather hits, your first reaction is to get the grill out from the garage and fire it up for the first grilling of the season. While it’s tempting, taking some time to ensure your grill is safe — especially the first time you use it each season — is worth the effort. In the U.S. every year there are are grilling-related home fires, and many stem from poor maintenance or failure to inspect a grill before using it.
Read on to learn some grilling safety tips, and how you can quickly check your propane grill to protect yourself, your family, your friends and your home.
THE FIRST LIGHTING OF THE SEASON
The most critical time to pay extra attention to propane grill safety is when you’re using your grill for the first time — either after your purchase or at the start of the summer. Follow this simple checklist of propane grill safety tips to make sure you cover all the critical points:
- Visually inspect: Make sure the chassis of your grill is solid and sturdy, and check that the burner is clean and intact. Some very light surface rust may be okay, but any parts that are getting rusty and worn should be replaced soon. One common problem after winter storage is the presence of spider webs in your burners and lines, so think about taking them apart and cleaning them. Make sure you clean out any grease, as this is highly flammable.
- Check for leaks: The best way to do this is to tighten all connections and open the propane tank with the burners closed. If you listen carefully, you should be able to hear any leaks. Using soapy water on all connections and your nose to sniff out any leaks are also valid methods. Any leak is a potential safety risk, so don’t light your grill until all leaks have been fixed. Refer to owner’s manual for proper procedures.
- Do a trial lighting: Once you’re sure that your grill is safe, place the grill far away from anything flammable and light it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once the grill is lit, ensure that the dials for controlling the size of the flame are working properly. Try turning off the tank to make sure it seals properly and kills the flame immediately.
A large percentage of house fires related to grilling are because the grill was installed too close to a flammable source. This could be a house, garage, shed, or a wooden deck or railing. Always make sure your grill is located a safe distance from all structures and objects.
It’s also important to keep children and pets a safe distance away from your grill. That’s why it’s important to never leave a grill unattended. If you need to leave, turn off the gas and close the lid. You won’t lose much heat, and you can easily fire the grill up again when you get back.
While every type of grill requires proper safety consideration, charcoal grills require extra care, especially while you’re lighting them. Only use approved charcoal starter fluids, and never use lighter fluid. Check with the manufacturer of your grill for safe lighting techniques. If your charcoal grill gets knocked over, hot coals can cause severe burns and quickly start a fire, so it’s helpful to install your charcoal grill on a stable, non-flammable surface.
PREPARING YOUR GRILL TO COOK
Even after the first lighting of the season, you should continue to regularly inspect your grill before using it.
Always make sure you are lighting the grill safely, whether you do so manually or rely on auto lighting functions. If you are lighting your grill by hand, make sure you always do it with caution so you don’t hurt yourself or damage the grill. If your grill has an auto lighting function, you can avoid potential danger to yourself but not the grill.
If the auto lighting function is not working properly, it may damage your grill. Make sure you check this function regularly and clean it. If you can, do so before or after every time you use the grill. The auto lighting function relies on a battery to work. Make sure you know how long the battery lasts so you can replace it when necessary. Keep an extra battery on hand to avoid the inconvenience. You don’t want to be hosting a picnic only to realize you can’t use the grill because the battery is dead.
Even after you’ve lit the grill safely, you need to remember a few important things. While the grill is heating up, make sure everyone in your household is aware the grill is on. Your kids may wander over to the grill, see that you aren’t using it, and assume it’s off. They could accidentally get a burn. If you have pets, keep them away from the heated grill.
It’s also key to double-check nothing flammable or meltable is on or near the grill. A gas grill can reach very high temperatures and could potentially melt or damage something that can’t withstand the heat.
SAFETY WHILE COOKING
Be sure to stay safe while you’re cooking using your propane grill. Like we mentioned earlier, gas grills can get really hot. If you’re not being careful, you could get a painful burn. Always assume the grill is hotter than you think it is.
Lots of things that you cook on the grill will let out juices and grease while they’re cooking. Those liquids falling into the flame could cause a flare-up. If your hands are in the way, you could get in the way of one. Use safe grilling tools like spatulas and tongs with long handles. This will help keep your hands out of the dangerous parts of the grill. You could also use protective gloves to keep your hands safe.
Make sure you are routinely cleaning out the grill tray in the bottom of your grill. If you aren’t, the debris in the tray can catch fire and burn what you’re currently cooking and damage your grill.
Before you even began cooking or light the grill, you should have double-checked to see if you have enough propane in your tank. You wouldn’t want to start grilling and then realize you don’t have enough propane. Fidgeting with the tanks while the grill is lit is not safe. If possible, you should have extra fuel in case you do find the propane tank empty or low.
It’s also important to keep your grill safe when you aren’t using it. Here are a few ways to practice safe storage for your propane grill:
- Get a cover: This is the best way to keep your grill in the best condition. When you buy your grill, the retailer can probably suggest a good cover to go with it. If you already purchased your grill without a cover, the manufacturer should have suggestions for a good cover that will fit. A cover will keep your grill dry in rain, preventing rust, and keep out other debris and things in the air.
- Move it inside: An alternative to getting a cover for your grill is moving it inside when it’s not in use. Pull it into the garage or basement, depending on the most accessible entrance. Keeping it inside will also prevent possible damage. However, doing so is more inconvenient than just throwing a cover over the grill when you’re done.
- Put it in an enclosed space: If you don’t have room inside your garage or basement and you don’t want to buy a cover, try to keep it in an enclosed space. Put it in a nook in your home or next to a large bush to protect it the best you can.
If you’re not properly storing your grill, weather can damage the grill’s functions. High winds and rain could cause serious issues. By storing your propane grill in the safest area you can, you can avoid these possible dangers. When you store your grill safely, it will stay in the best possible condition for as long as possible.
START YOUR GRILLS!
Make sure to always read and check the manufacturers manual of your grill. With these few easy tips, you’ll be sure that your summer grilling season will be safe and enjoyable. Checking your connections for leaks, as well as the condition of your grill before you light it up, are the best ways to ensure propane grill safety. It only takes a few minutes, and an extra step of caution can help guarantee a full season of propane grilling enjoyment!