Safety Tips for the Backyard Chef
In Alberta, most people are happy to leave their kitchens behind to cook in the great outdoors. What is better than the smokey aroma of grilling steaks or sizzling sausages filling the air? AND when was the last time you serviced your Barbecue grill?
Yes, I mean SERVICED!
Safe Grilling Tips
Ever scorched your eyebrows and arm hairs attempting to light a barbecue? Or lit the grill, only to have the lid blow off? A poorly maintained barbecue is more than a beauty hazard - it can be very dangerous.
Barbecues can get as hot as 370º C (700º F) and have an open flame with a very large fuel source. Almost as hot as a Self Cleaning Oven! It is an understatement to say that safety is an issue. Do not pull your barbecueonto your deck close to house, open the gas lines and light a match, or that very expensive steak you have lovingly marinated all day may not be the only thing getting grilled! Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind, so you can enjoy grilling all year long! So, remember to SERVICE your grill at least twice a year! Giving the grill a good once over and a thorough cleaning on a regular basis will prolong the life of your grill, and all your culinary creations will taste so much better!
Remove all the rocks or bricks (or on newer models the flare shields) and clean out all the debris from previous grillings. Trust me, those carbon chunks do not make for a tastier steak! And blocked tubes may cause the propane to burn outside of the burner, which will damage your barbecue. Use a small pipe cleaner or better yet, invest in a BBQ vent brush, and clean out each vent in the burner. Little insects like to build nests in there, and spiders build webs, which can partially or completely block the flow of propane thru the burner, resulting in a small smoky yellow flame - and that will leave a very unpleasant flavor in your dinner!
- Never use spirits (alcohol or paint thinner) to start a barbecue. Lighter fluid can be used at the beginning to get the fire started but must never be used on a hot barbecue.
- Keep the barbecue at least 1.5 meters away from any flammable objects. Remember, siding on a house is flammable! The intense heat of the barbecue can and will melt vinyl siding and vinyl window trims!
- Glass can also be damaged by the intense heat of a barbecue so be sure to maintain a space of at least 1.5 meters between your barbecue and windows, sliding doors, glass railings, etc.
- Keep the barbecue on a level surface.
- Do not attempt to move a lit barbecue - it may tip over causing burns or a fire.
- Do not cook inside gazebos or tents. The gases produced during combustion will be toxic.
- Keep dogs and children away from the barbecue during cooking.
- Choose a location where smoke and burning ashes will not be blown into the house, trees, etc.
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose nearby in case of accidents. Better yet, invest in a good chemical fire extinguisher, but do not keep it under the grill. Set it off to the side, if the barbecue catches on fire, you need to get to your extinguisher! Remember, WATER will not put out a grease fire!
- Most important - NEVER LEAVE YOUR GRILL UNATTENDED - EVEN FOR A MINUTE! All it takes is a curious child or pet, and you could have a horrific accident!
- Before you fire up the barbecue, be sure the grill is clean to prevent food from sticking. Scrub it with a grill brush, wash and rinse it thoroughly if needed. Better yet, give it a good brushing when you are done grilling, while still hot. So much easier to clean before it is burned on!
- Coat the grill with a thin layer of vegetable oil once it is hot. Special pads are available for this, or just use tongs and a piece of cotton folded up! You can buy a pump spray bottle, just remember to spray BEFORE turning on the flame!!!
- Bring meat to room temperature before barbecuing. This will help the meat to cook more evenly. Remember that meat should be left at room temperature for no more than an hour to prevent the growth of unhealthy bacteria.
- Marinate or brine meat to tenderize it and add moisture. Vegetables require a shorter period of time to marinate; even 20 minutes prior to grilling can add wonderful flavor to your favorite vegetables. Try your favorite salad dressing!
- Baste the meat with marinade as it cooks. This will help seal in the juices and prevent burning. Baste lightly and more often, if an oil based marinade. Don't mop it on generously, remember, oil burns! If the marinade is high in sugar, baste the meat only during the last five minutes of barbecuing as sugar burns easily.
- Do not baste the meat on the grill with the same marinade used on the raw meat. Keep a fresh batch in a small squeeze bottle and squirt a little on the meat, spread around with a long handled BBQ basting brush. Those silicon brushes available at Loony Stores work awesome! Salt draws out moisture, so it is not a good idea to add salt during cooking - leave the seasoning to your guests.
- Turn items with tongs or a spatula. Don't pierce with a fork - flavorful juices can be lost. Don't cut your meat to see if it is done - use an instant read thermometer.
- Burgers and chicken should always be cooked thoroughly ( no pink juices) to prevent poisoning caused by E.coli bacteria. The very young and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to this unpleasant and sometimes fatal infection.
- Never place the grilled meat back on the dish or board where the raw meat was placed. Wash the dish in hot soapy water, or use a fresh, clean platter.
- Coat vegetables in your favorite oil based salad dressing or Olive oil to protect the skin from drying and burning. Sprinkle the vegetables with herbs such as basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme. Or try some of the new grill seasonings in the spice isle of your grocery store!
- A grilling wok or a wire basket makes it easy to grill vegetables without any slipping through the cracks! Most barbecue retailers will carry these and many other accessories.
- Wrap veggies in a double layer of foil with a bit of seasoning and a touch of oil, and a few drops of liquid, and let them steam away to delicious tenderness! These packets can be prepared ahead of time, and just need to be popped onto the grill. Poke a steam hole in the top, and keep the heat medium low to prevent scorching!
Just a final note!
Not only is it difficult to get a grill spotless, but also most people don't want to put that much effort into cleaning a barbecue. To make fast work of the chore, scrub the grill with a wire brush for a minute immediately after removing food. Close the lid and let the residual heat of the barbecue char the remaining food particles. Brush the grill again when it is cool and, if necessary, remove it and soak it in hot soapy water. A clean grill will provide you with many enjoyable years of barbecuing!
Although people have been grilling their meat since mankind first discovered fire, we now have the experience and technology to turn an ancient cooking method into an art form. Get grilling!