Updated April 3, 2016 . AmFam Team
Few things smell more like summer than the aroma of a loaded grill. And whether you’re a grill master or a determined novice, when you start planning for the first grill-out of the season, it’s important you know how to maintain your grill, use it safely and understand what to do if something goes amiss. So gather up the condiments, head outside and follow our grilling safety tips to make sure your grilling season is a success.
Check hoses for leaks. Take a close look at your hoses to make sure there aren’t any leaks. To do this, apply a mixture of soap and water to the hose and turn the propane tank on (with the grid lid open). You’ll know there’s a gas leak or the connections aren’t tight enough if the propane releases bubbles around the hose. If you don’t see bubbles, your grill should be safe to use. If bubbles do form, turn off the tank and have your grill serviced professionally before using it.
Adjust hoses. Before lighting up, check the connection points between the propane tank hose and the regulator and cylinder, as well as where the hose connects to the burners. Tighten them up if they’re loose. Be sure to do this when the grill is cold.
Check for blockages. Spiders and small insects have no problem spinning their webs or building nests inside your grill’s venturi tubes (i.e. the tubes that extend from the burner to the control valve). Pesky webs or nests can obstruct gas flow and cause a fire to form — and not the kind of fire you want cooking your hot dogs. Prevent blockage by cleaning and inspecting your tubes often. You can clean the tubes with a wire or pipe cleaner.
Cover your grill. When your grill isn’t in use, cover it up. This’ll protect it from weather and bugs. Just make sure the grill is cooled off before covering it!
Insurance protection. This might not be on the top of your list when you start preparing for your cookout — but it should be. If you’re hosting a party, having the right liability protection in place is an important precautionary step to protect yourself in the event something gets out of hand. Umbrella liability insurance is an extra layer of coverage over your homeowners insurance that can help financially cover you in case you face a substantial claim or lawsuit.
Take a look at these five things you may not know about umbrella insurance and then connect with your agent (Opens in a new tab) to see just how easy it is to add this coverage to your policy.
Pay attention to placement. Whether a gas or propane grill, it’s a good rule of thumb to place your grill at least 10 feet, if not more, from any building. Be mindful that you’re not placing it underneath wooden overhangs, since flames could flare up and start the structure on fire. If you live in an apartment, place your grill on a parking lot or section of lawn far away from buildings and flammable items.
Set the grill on level ground. Grill on a flat, stable surface so the grill can’t tip over.
Grill outside and away from structures. Never use gasoline, alcohol or kerosene to start your coals. You may think you can use a small grill indoors, but this can be really dangerous! Not only because it’s a fire hazard, but because grills release carbon monoxide, which is a deadly colorless, odorless gas, in enclosed spaces, it can quickly cause serious harm.
Never turn on the gas while your lid is closed. If you have a gas grill, turning the gas on while the lid is closed can be extremely dangerous. Gas can build up under the lid and you may have a fire ball exploding in your face when you light up the grill.
Protect yourself. If you’re in charge of the grill, avoid baggy clothes that can dangle over the grill and catch fire. Wear a heavy apron and oven mitts that protect your forearms, and use long-handled utensils.
Smell gas? Turn off the grill. Who doesn’t love the smell of food sizzling on the grill? But if you start smelling gas from the propane tank, you’ll want to turn off the gas tank and burners immediately.
Don’t overload the grill with food. This especially applies to fatty meats, since fat drips off and if too much drips on the flames at once, it could cause a flare-up that might catch nearby things on fire.
Wait to re-light if the flame goes out. If the flame goes out, turn off the grill and the gas and wait at least five minutes before you re-light it. On a similar note, don't add lighter fluid once your coals are on fire, glowing or smoldering.
Be mindful around the grill. Keep children and pets away from the grill, and don’t leave your grill unattended. Remember that fires can double in size every minute, and an unattended grill runs the risk of starting a fire that becomes unmanageable.
Be prepared to put out a fire. Remember that you shouldn’t put out a grease fire with water. Water and oil don’t mix, and if you douse a grease fire with water, it can spread flaming oil everywhere. Baking soda is a better option for grease fires, and, of course, having a fire extinguisher on standby is always a smart idea.
If your grill catches fire… If you can get close enough without getting burned, put the lid on or shut off the gas. Then get completely away from the grill. Call 911 right away if you’re struggling to control the fire.
Properly turn the grill off. Close the grill lid and any vents tightly. Don't move the grill or remove the coals until they’ve cooled off. If you have a gas grill, make sure to close the valve tightly on the gas cylinder after grilling.
Soak the coals with water. If you’re using a charcoal grill, soak the coals with water to ensure they’re cool and inactive, so there’s no chance they’ll be able to light up again. Let the coals cool off before disposing them in a metal container.
Keep it clean. Grease and fat can quickly buildup on your grill, and there’s nothing like dripping grease to get a fire to flare up unexpectedly. Brush the grill and scrub tray below the grill to keep it safe, clean and ready to go for the next barbeque.
Keep these grilling tips top of mind for a safe and enjoyable barbeque. Now for the biggest dilemma of all — what will you grill?