Memorial Day Weekend 2021 has arrived.

13 percent of Americans (I thought that the number would be higher) plan to grill over the extended holiday weekend.

We’ve turned to the experts to share some safety tips for grilling.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that fire departments nationwide average 8,900 home fires annually that involve grills.

This lands almost 20,000 in emergency rooms each year due to injuries involving grilling, including more than 2,000 children under the age of five.

Food poisoning is another very real threat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report “that each year 48 million people suffer from a foodborne illness, of which barbecues and picnics play a significant part.”

The following is taken directly from the sources noted throughout this report:

  1. The NFPA says that more than a quarter of home fires begin in a courtyard or patio and almost one-third are started on an exterior balcony or open porch. Grill away from all structures including overhanging tree branches.
  2. Check for propane leaks. You can do this by applying a light soap and water solution on the gas hose. If there is a leak, the solution will bubble when you start up the grill. You may also smell the gas.
  3. Wait to relight your grill if the flame goes out. Experts recommend waiting at least five minutes before relighting.
  4. Never add more charcoal lighter fluid to a waning flame. A safer alternative to the fluid is a charcoal chimney starter that uses newspaper to the light the flame instead of a fluid.
  5. Wear the right clothing. Clothing can easily catch fire, so ensure that your shirt tails, sleeves or apron strings don’t hang over the grill, says Nationwide.
  6. Start with a clean grill. Chef Gerard Viverito, associate professor in culinary arts at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, says that extra grease can contaminate food with potential carcinogens.
  7. Thaw proteins completely before grilling. “That’s the best way to ensure that the food cooks evenly. Always use a meat thermometer in the thickest area to test doneness,” he says.” Healthy internal temperatures are: poultry, 180 degrees; burgers, 160 degrees; pork, 160 degrees; and steaks, 145 degrees for medium rare and 160 degrees for medium.
  8. Marinate with the right cooking oil. Chef Gerard says that using olive oil before grilling is unhealthy because at high heat it can break down into dangerous carcinogens. Palm oil is a safer bet.
  9. Keep meat and vegetables separate on the grill. “Keep meat drippings from falling on the vegetables because they don’t cook long enough to destroy any bacteria present in the drippings,” says Chef Gerard.
  10. Keep food away from flies. “Use food covers to keep insects from sharing your meal and spreading germs,” warns the chef. And if you use a spray insect repellent keep it away and downwind from the food. “You don’t want to eat the chemicals.”
  11. Refrigerate all foods within two hours. Do not leave at room temperature, warns Dr. James Bain, of UnityPoint Health.
  12. Be ready to put out the fire. Have a fire extinguisher handy for dangerous flareups and use baking soda to control a grease fire. You can also keep a bucket of sand near the grill to put out a fire, but never pour water on the flames.

SOURCES: National Fire Protection Association, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UnityPoint Health.

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