After months of being sequestered indoors by cold weather and rain, nothing is more refreshing than hanging out in the backyard with friend and family, a cold drink in hand and some meat on the grill. Just like all the best things in life, grilling comes with risks. While it might make for an exciting story to tell your grandchildren later, no one really wants to spend the evening entertaining the local fire department or visiting with the nurses in the local emergency room.
Take a minute to observe a few grilling best practices and to be prepared in case an emergency happens.
Send your guests home with leftovers or a party gift, not food poisoning this summer. Keep all salads held together by mayonnaise in the fridge or in a cooler on ice until you are ready to serve it. (Most people think potato salad, pasta salad and chicken salad but in Mississippi we add mayo to almost everything.) Return those salads to the fridge or cooler or throw it away after serving.
Don’t mix your drinks and raw meat in one cooler. For one thing, it’s gross. For another, it provides an opportunity for cross-contamination.
Keep raw meat in the fridge or on ice until you are ready to grill. The FDA recommends raw food is left at room temperature for less than two hours.
Keep a meat thermometer handy to check the temperature of your meat to ensure it cooks properly. CDC temperature recommendations:
- 145°F – whole cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and veal (stand-time of 3 minutes at this temperature)
- 145°F – fish
- 160°F – hamburgers and other ground beef
- 165°F – all poultry and pre-cooked meats, like hot dogs
This first tips should go without saying, but just in case you aren’t sure, always grill outdoors at least 10 feet away from any structures (including overhangs, branches, etc.). Never use a gas or charcoal grill inside or even in a garage.
Make sure clothing doesn’t hang over the grill including shirt sleeves, shirttails, and apron strings. We know you love your “kiss the cook” apron, just make sure to tie the strings so they don’t dangle over your hot grill.
Use long-handled utensils and oven mitts that reach high on the forearm.
Keep a spray bottle and fire extinguisher handy. The spray bottle will help calm fires that are getting out of control but do not use it on a grease fire. Keep a fire extinguisher or baking soda close at hand to tame those fires.
Never leave your hot grill unsupervised. Prepare all your meats, utensils and other tools ahead of time. In addition to increasing the chances of a fire, an unsupervised, lit grill can be an accident waiting to happen with children or pets playing in the yard.
Wait until your grill has cooled to move it.
For Gas Grills
- Open the lid to your gas grill before turning the gas on. Starting your gas grill before opening it can cause a fireball to explode when you open the grill
- Check for leaks in your gas grill before using it. Rub a mixture of half dish soap and half water on the hoses and connections. Open the grill and turn the gas on. If you have a leak the soap will form bubbles.
- If the flame on your gas grill goes out, turn the grill and the gas off and wait five minutes to relight it.
For Charcoal Grills
- Only use charcoal lighter fluid to start your charcoal grill. Consider using charcoal chimney starter instead.
- Do not add lighter fluid or other flammable liquids to the grill after it is lit.
What to do if there is an accident
None of us want to think about a disaster in the midst of a family or neighborhood gathering. The best way to prevent a worst case scenario is to be prepared for one. Have some basic first aid supplies on hand and know when to treat an accident at home, when to see an urgent care provider and when to call 911 for emergency help.
For minor grilling burns soak the affected area with cool water or allow cool water to run over the area for thirty minutes. Do not treat with ice. Pain relievers like ibuprofen or naproxen may help reduce swelling and relieve the pain. Aloe vera may also soothe the pain, but avoid remedies like milk, butter or over the counter antibiotic creams.
If a small blister forms do not pop it. The blister will protect your skin as it heals and popping it allows bacteria to enter the skin and may cause infection. If the blister is larger than your thumbnail go to an urgent care clinic or the emergency room.
For more serious burns where the skin blisters immediately (third-degree burns) or the burn penetrates the muscle or bone (fourth-degree burns), call 911 and seek medical help immediately. You may also remove clothing and jewelry around the burn but do not remove anything stuck to the burn.
Also seek medical help if the burn victim is less than five years old or over seventy years old or if the burn affects the face, fingers, feet, genitals, or hands. Burns over three inches in diameter or infected burns oozing pus or causing fever also call for a visit to your medical provider or an urgent care center.
If your meat prep person gets a little excited and ends up with a skewer to the hand do not remove it. Stabilize the skewer so it does not cause additional damage and head to the ER.
For deep knife cuts or amputation of parts of the finger apply pressure, elevate and seek emergency care. If a piece of the finger is cut off bring it with you to be reattached.
If you’re the grill master at your house, we’d love to see your favorite grilling recipes or tips. And if accidents happen that do not require a call to 911, we’re open seven days a week until 5 p.m. and walk-ins are always welcome.