Most dangers with gas grills are obvious. Our own analysis of data collected by the Consumer Product Safety Commission didn’t reveal many surprises. Almost all of the estimated 11,000 grill injuries treated in hospitals each year are due to burns of the hands, arms and face. About a dozen people are killed each year. Young children are particularly at risk. The U.S Fire Administration reports that in 2005 gas grills caused approximately 7,200 home-related fires. Grill fires go up during warm-weather months, and have also climbed with the increasing popularity of gas grills. None of this is unexpected.
What is surprising is the type of failure Consumer Reports found with a Broil King grill we tested for our June 2008 issue. In one of our routine tests to determine how well each grill handles flare ups from fatty foods, the firebox of the Broil King Signet 90 986784LP melted. The result: molten metal dripped down from the firebox onto the area beneath the grill, just missing one tester’s hand. The space beneath the grill is where the propane tank is stored. We subsequently tested two other samples of this grill: in one the firebox again melted and in the other the firebox had begun to crack and deform by the end of the test.
Because we believe that the Broil King Signet 90 is dangerous and poses a serious safety risk, we judged it “Not Acceptable.” We reported our findings to the company that makes the grill, Onward Manufacturing of Canada, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Health Canada, a government safety agency in that country. Onward told us that they are developing a retrofit kit to resolve this problem and will soon make it available to owners and Onward dealers. We hope to test the kit when it becomes available. (For more information on the retrofit kit contact 866-434-7455, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
We’ve been testing gas grills for more than 30 years and have never before seen this type of failure. We do not know why the grill deformed and melted. Our flare-up test for a mid-sized grill such as the Broil King Signet 90 involves putting six steaks on the grill and cooking them with the lid down. We do not believe this test to be particularly severe and it is intended to mimic how the grill is likely to be used by consumers. Our article notes that the grill carries two safety certification marks issued by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), indicating that it complies with applicable safety standards. But those safety standards don’t involve grilling real food. We will lobby CSA to have those standards re-examined and strengthened in the near future.