Summertime means lots of opportunities for outdoor cooking. Whether you enjoy grilling, smoking meats, or using a pizza oven, it’s important that you know the steps you can take to keep you and your family safe while using these items.

What makes outdoor cooking dangerous?

The primary concern with this type of cooking is the flammable grease produced by animal fats. The buildup of grease is subject to flare-ups when the open flame hits it, posing a fire and safety risk.

5 Tips for Outdoor Cooking & Grilling Safety

Tip #1: Know your equipment.

When purchasing a new grill/smoker, read the instruction manual and learn how to properly operate, maintain, season, and store your unit to keep it running smoothly and extend the life. Though you may think you know the general process for using or maintaining an item, reviewing the specifics of each is a great way to reduce risk.

Central experts also advise taking the time to review the manual at the start of each season. If you can’t find a copy of your manual, it’s likely there’s a copy online for your reference.

Tip #2: Keep a good distance.

Store your grill at least 10 feet from your house. Fire can spread to any structure or overhang quickly, so the more space you put between your grill and your property the better.

Also be sure to keep the area surrounding your grill free of decorations, umbrellas, and other flammable items. If you’re able to avoid setting your grill on a wood deck, that is also a smart choice, as wooden surfaces are not ideal for high temperatures and cooking.

Tip #3: Clean your cooker frequently.

How often you choose to clean your cooker should depend on what and how much you’re using it to cook. Some meats generate a lot of greases that can fill a drip pan or coat the inside rapidly, and require a basic wipe down after each use, once the unit has cooled and before the cover is put back on.

Regardless of the number of wipe-downs you do, be sure to do a deeper clean of your cooker at least once a month. The more often you clean, the easier it is to keep up.

Central Tip: Use your deep cleaning schedule as an opportunity to check for other important safety hazards such as gas leaks. To properly check the gas line, Central experts suggest mixing a solution of half dish soap/half water and pouring it on your gas hoses and connectors. The soap will bubble if there’s a leak once the gas is turned on.

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Tip #4: Be cautious when operating your cooker.

Overloading your smoker or grill can cause a lot of greases to drip down to the burner which can be very dangerous. It’s also important that you don’t leave your grill unattended when it’s in use; monitor it frequently to avoid accidents.

Also be sure to never light your unit with the lid/door closed, as gas can build up rapidly and explode when ignited.

Tip #5: Know how to respond in an emergency.

If you’re going to be cooking outdoors this season, it’s imperative that you know how to cut off your fuel source, extinguish a fire, and call the fire department.

Keep in Mind: This is why experts recommend not operating outdoor cooking equipment when you’ve been drinking, as alcohol slows our ability to respond to situations quickly and effectively.

For maximum safety, Central experts suggest you keep three items within reach when cooking outdoors:

  1. A spray bottle of water (which can help add moisture to slow-cooked meats and cut down small flame-ups).
  2. A welding blanket for smothering fires by full covering a grill’s surface.
  3. An easily accessible fire extinguisher. (Be sure to research the best type for what you’re cooking and know how to use it).

If you do need to use an extinguisher, you’ll have to clean up afterward, so find something designed for use on cooking equipment. Let your unit cool completely before cleaning or covering, and always soak burnt wood chips in water before disposal.

Keeping You and Your Family Safe

Taking the time to review grilling safety tips like these can make a big difference in protecting not only yourself and your family, but your property. According to the National Fire Protection Association, almost 9,000 home fires are started by grills each year, and homes that experience fires end up paying an average of almost $13,000 in repairs.

Follow these tips from Central to enjoy peace of mind while you’re behind the grill this summer, and use this opportunity to talk to your insurance agent about your coverage limits in case of a fire.

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