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A Quick Guide To Barbecue Safety

By: Joshua Rooks

Grilling can be the highlight of your day. It can be the event you look forward to throughout the week. Barbecuing can become the vehicle through which you make great memories. Or…it could be the exact opposite.  


Unfortunately, reality has dictated that grilling and smoking can be dangerous. From bacteria in your food to brushes losing bristles on your grill grates, it’s a minefield as to what could potentially happen to you and your guests during a cookout.  


It is with this dilemma I’d like to help. It’s always important to have a plan or know solutions to problems. So, I’ve compiled a quick guide to barbecue safety with tips that every pitmaster should know. Without further ado, let’s get started!  


Outdoors only 


If you’re using a grill that operates off of a flame of any kind, you need to be grilling outdoors. An exception to this rule would be when your house is equipped with a gas-stove, and proper ventilation has been installed into your home. Otherwise, take it outside.  


Grilling with either gas, coals, or wood can result in the production of carbon monoxide and other harmful chemicals that can cause either incapacitation, sickness or death. The only fool-proof way to combat these dangers is by not grilling in an enclosed space.  


Fire safety first 


Another reality when dealing with flames is that you need to keep a fire extinguisher handy. No matter the circumstances, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Some people might think that it’s sufficient to use a water bucket or a hose, but when dealing with grills, where grease is prevalent, water doesn’t always douse the flames. In order to make sure we have completely put out the fire, we need to have a chemical agent that can do so thoroughly and on demand. That’s what a fire extinguisher does.  


What’s eating what I’m eating 


Well, this isn’t the most pleasant of topics, but we have to address it. Bacteria can ruin your cookout faster than food poisoning can make you dial 911. In fact, it’s for that very reason. Bacteria can grow very quickly and spread very easily. It’s important to take precautions when dealing with food, especially outdoors.  


Here are a few tips to combating this nasty nuisance. First, make sure that whatever you are preparing stays cold before you either serve it or cook it. This way, bacteria doesn’t have a chance to propagate. Once you’ve cooked your food, try not to let it sit for too long before serving it unless called for specifically by the recipe. Finally, once you’ve eaten it, try not to let the leftovers sit outside of a refrigerator too long to ensure that any bacteria in the food has not had ample time to reproduce.  


Grills, grates, and brushes 


Many of us clean our grills and smokers with grill brushes. Most of these brushes consist of firm handles and heads that contain metal wire bristles. It is here that I wish to instruct. Wire brushes can be particularly dangerous as their bristles fall out at an alarmingly high rate. Perhaps not every meal, but one found in a plate of food is one too many. Ingesting a metal wire bristle can be life-threatening if not treated properly.  


To avoid this, I suggest forgoing your cleaning with a wire brush in favor of cleaning your grill grates with a pad of steel wool. You can do this prior to the cooking process via soap and water or vinegar. Follow this with thorough rinsing, a complete drying with paper towels or a shammy and a reapplication of oil for lubrication, and you’re back in the saddle ready to tackle another meal. Not only that, but you’ll have complete confidence that none of your guests will end up in the ER with a metal wire in their gut.  


I hope this helps everyone! Surely, this is not the definitive list, but it may just be what you need to kickstart your own ideas for grill safety. Happy grilling! 

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