Grilling Safety: Tips to Prevent Injury


Number of fires caused by grills

Although grilling can be a fun summer activity, precautions should be taken to prevent personal injury as well as property damage and destruction. According to the National Fire Protection Association, an average of 10,600 home fires a year involving grills, hibachis or barbecues result in nearly a dozen deaths, 160 injuries and an estimated $150 million in direct property damage. This statistic is due to a number of factors, including leaving equipment unattended among others. (See Figure 1).

Figure 1. Home Grill Fires by Leading Factors Contributing to Ignition 2014-2018


Note. This graphic was prepared by M. Ahrens in 2020 depicting the common factors of fires.

The following preventive actions are recommended to reduce the risk of fires.

Placing and using the grill:

  • Use only propane and charcoal grills outdoors and place the grill at least three feet away from the home, deck railings, and below leaves and overhanging branches.
  • Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grill.
  • Pay particular attention to loose clothing and dangling jewelry that can pose a hazard.

Propane Grill:

Check the gas tank hose for leaks before you use it for the first time each year – you can do this by applying soap and water to the hose and checking for bubbles. If there are bubbles or a propane smell and there is no flame, turn off both the gas tank and the grill. If the leak stops, have the grill serviced by a professional before using it again. If the leak does not stop or if you smell gas while cooking, do not attempt to move the grill, move away from it immediately and call 911 (Ahrens, 2020).

If you find that there is no gas leak, before lighting the grill, open the hood and check for hidden nests, hives, or animals. It is good practice to clean the grill thoroughly to remove excess grease before and after use. While cooking, remember to never leave the grill unattended. After you’re done, clean the grill after each use to remove grease and grease that can cause a fire (FEMA). Because propane gas is heavier than air, it will sink closer to the ground and can enter your home through doors, windows, and dryer vents. Never store the bottle near these entry points. Also, make sure the propane tank is stored upright on a level surface so it cannot roll or tip over.

Charcoal Grill:

Use only starter fluid designed for charcoal. After you finish roasting, make sure that the charcoal and ash remain completely refrigerate, leaving the lid closed for 48 hours. For a faster process, pour water over the embers. After 48 hours, place the cooled ash in a metal container or wrap it in foil before placing it in the trash (Lam, 2020).

Grilling Food Safety:

In addition to the dangers of physical injury from improper outdoor cooking, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are approximately 48 million cases of food poisoning each year, of which grilling plays a significant role. It is important to pay particular attention to the temperature of your food before, during and after its preparation.

  • Refrigerate meat, poultry and seafood until ready to roast. Keep food below 40 when transporting°F in an insulated cooler.
  • Use a food thermometer to make sure the meat is hot enough to kill germs. (see Figure 2 for safe minimum internal temperatures).
  • When using a barbecue smoker, monitor the air temperature in the smoker to ensure that the heat remains between 225°F and 300°F throughout the cooking process. This will ensure that the meat is fully cooked.

Figure 2. Correct temperature for roasting different types of meat

Note. This chart was prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2020 to show the correct temperature for cooking meat to ensure food safety.

145°F Whole cuts of beef, pork or lamb (let rest 3 minutes before serving)
145°F Fish (whole or fillet)
160°F Hamburgers, sausages and other ground beef, pork or lamb
165°F Chicken, turkey and other poultry

References:

Ahrens, M. (2020, May). Home Grill Fires – NFPA. Accessed July 7, 2022.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Food Safety. Accessed July 7, 2022.

FEMA. Grilling Fire Safety Brochure – US Fire Administration. Downloaded on July 7, 2022 by

Lam, D. (2021, July 2). Backyard grilling looks safe until it’s not. NPR. Accessed July 7, 2022,

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