Lots of us cook on a gas or charcoal- or wood-burning grill during summertime entertaining. Apparently some of us are spending too much time talking about our golf games, the presidential race, or a recipe for a killer dry rub instead of paying attention to the fire—more than 5,000 people went to the emergency room for grilling-related injuries in 2007, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Burns were the most common injury.
• Check hoses and fittings for gas leaks when you first use your gas grill each year and a couple of times during outdoor-cooking season. Mix a small amount of dishwashing liquid and water in a spray bottle. Spray the soapy solution over connections and along the hose. Turn on the gas at the tank but leave the burners off. Bubbling at connections or along the hose means you need to replace the hose or fittings or possibly tighten a loose connection.
• Always grill outside and never in an enclosed area like the garage. Carbon monoxide could build up and make you sick or even asphyxiate you.
• Empty the grease pan, tray, or receptacle to decrease the risk of fire. Replace it after cleaning.
• Cook in a low-traffic area and away from any combustible surfaces. Sweep up dry brush and leaves. If your home has vinyl siding, be sure to keep a hot grill far away or it can cause the siding to melt and sag.
• Keep young kids and pets away from the grill when you're cooking and even after you're done—a grill can stay hot for up to an hour after you've cooked the last kebab. And never move a hot grill.
• Do not start a charcoal or wood fire with gasoline, and don't add lighter fluid after the fire has started; the flame can follow the fluid to its source—that being the container you're holding in your hand.
• When lighting a gas grill, keep the lid open to prevent gas from building up and causing what the HPBA calls a "flash off."
• Cook with long-handled utensils and flame-retardant mitts.
• Control flare-ups to keep yourself and others from getting burned. On a gas grill, lower the temperature. For a charcoal- or wood-burning model, raise the grid or evenly spread the coals.
• Put out a grease fire with baking soda and have a fire extinguisher on hand. If you don't have a fire extinguisher , use bucket of sand or douse the fire with water from your garden hose.
• Let ashes from a charcoal or a wood-burning grill sit for at least 48 hours before you throw them out.
If you need to buy a new grill, keep these shopping tips in mind to
ensure you buy a safe model. Now might be the time to get a good deal
on a grill, as home centers try to move out merchandise before fall.
• Give the grill a gentle nudge from several angles to see if it tips. The more stable the grill, the safer.
• Test to see if the curve of a handle puts your fingers or knuckles too close to the lid. If so, you can get burned. Also consider that metal handles usually get hotter than wooden or plastic ones.
• Look at the design of the grease drainage. When cooking fatty foods some flaring is to be expected, but the more distance the drainage puts between the fire and collected grease, the less the chance of sustained flare-ups.
• And before you buy, see whether a model you're considering has been recalled at www.recalls.gov.—Kimberly Janeway
A home in my neighborhood burned this week, a grease fire in a gas grill caught the back of the house on fire. They were grilling in a screened porch, it looks like the house is a total loss.