Grilling is such a great way to cook in the summertime. It’s healthy and it keeps your house cool. But people need to take extra care if they’re planning to grill outdoors, especially if it’s in an open area such as a public park that may have brush nearby. We’re doing better than last year rainwise, but everyone should still be vigilant when it comes to outdoor cooking fire safety.
The National Fire Protection Association data show that from 2005-2009 U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 8,200 home fires each year involving charcoal and gas grills and other means of outdoor cooking. These included approximately 3,400 structure fires and 4,800 outside fires, causing an average of 15 deaths and 120 injuries annually and $75 million in direct property damage.
– Set up the grill on a concrete surface or on ground where grass and vegetation in the area are trimmed and where there are no dry leaves or brush in the vicinity.
– Place the grill in an open area away from deck railings, eaves, mulch or leaf piles, overhanging branches or other potentially combustible items.
– If using a gas grill, check for leaks and make sure hose connections are tight.
– Set the grill at least 10 feet away from your house or building, and do not grill in a garage or under a carport or other surface that might catch fire.
– Keep young children and pets at least 3 feet from the grill.
– Remove any grease or fat buildup from the grill and/or in the trays below the grill.
– Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.
– Never leave the grill unattended once the fire has been lit.
– Do not attempt to move a hot grill.
– Keep a multipurpose fire extinguisher within reach.
– Use flame-retardant mitts and grilling tools with long handles instead of household forks or short-handled tongs.
– When finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing, and use a metal container for disposal.
– If using a liquid propane grill, use extreme caution and always follow manufacturer recommendations for connecting or disconnecting the tank.
To maintain food quality and freshness, ensure proper temperatures are kept during storage and cooking.
At the grocery store, select your meat last and get it home as soon as possible. If the trip from the grocery store to your home is more than a half-hour, take a cooler and put refrigerated items in it.
Poultry, fish, seafood or ground beef should be cooked or frozen within a day or two, and that steaks or pork chops should be cooked or frozen within four to five days.
The safest way to thaw meat or poultry is by placing it in the refrigerator a day or two before you plan to cook it. You can also thaw them in the microwave, but if you do, cook the food right away; don’t let it sit. Some foods may not thaw out evenly in the microwave and other parts of the food may be partially cooked, so it’s still better to let them thaw out it in the fridge. Avoid thawing meats at room temperature as this may increase the number of germs related to foodborne illness.
If refrigerated food is being transported to another location for cooking, it should be kept at 40 degrees or colder, using a cooler and ice or ice packs, and only take what you plan to cook and eat that day.
Raw meat, poultry or seafood should be tightly wrapped or stored in a sealed bag or container, and kept in a different cooler than other foods. Also, make sure hands, cooking area and cooking utensils are clean to reduce the spread of germs to the food.
If you’re cooking away from home and not sure about a water source where you’re going, take your own water and paper towels or use an anti-bacterial hand sanitizer.
Be sure to clean your hands before and after touching raw meat, poultry or seafood. And make sure food preparation surfaces, cutting boards, grilling utensils and serving platters are washed and sanitized. Unwashed utensils and platters can still contaminate food, even if you’ve maintained proper food storage, preparation and cooking standards.
If you’ve placed raw meat or fish on a platter before grilling, do not use that same plate to serve the food unless it is first cleaned with hot, soapy water.
Foods on a grill can brown quickly and look as though they are sufficiently cooked when they are not. A food thermometer is the only way to ensure foods have been cooked to a safe internal temperature.
Cook all poultry to 165 degrees, fully cook meats like hot dogs to 165 degrees and hamburgers to 160 degrees. Beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops and roasts should be cooked to at least 145 degrees. For safety, however, allow these foods to ‘rest’ for three minutes after removing them from the grill before serving. After cooking, she added, be sure to keep the food hot until it is served – at least 140 degrees — otherwise, eat or refrigerate it right away.
Keep food covered and never let it sit out for more than two hours, and if the weather is 90 degrees or hotter, eat or store it within one hour. We usually say, ‘More than two is bad for you,’ but when it’s this hot outside, that should be just one hour.