Safety First!

Reprinted with permission of the Barbecue Industry Association. StarChefs thanks the BIA for its support and its commitment to the safety of grillers everywhere.

General Tips
Charcoal/Wood Chunk Grilling Safety Tips
Gas GrillingSafety Tips
Electric Grilling Safety Tips
Food Safety Tips

General Tips

Today, with more Americans lighting their barbecue grills than ever before, it is important to always remember that a successful barbecue is a safe barbecue. Following is a list of safety tips to guide you through the grilling process. But remember, anytime you work with fire there's a chance of getting burned. So take precautions! Common sense and planning will prevent injuries.

  • Always read the owners manual before using your grill and follow specific usages, assembly, and safety procedures. Contact the grill manufacturer if you have specific questions about the operation of your grill.
  • Barbecue grills are designed for outdoor use only. Never barbecue in your trailer, tent, house, garage, or any enclosed area because carbon monoxide may accumulate and kill you.
  • Set up grill in an open area away from buildings, dry leaves or brush. Be sure to avoid high traffic areas and always barbecue in a well-ventilated area. Be aware of the wind blown sparks.
  • When using a barbecue grill be sure all parts of the unit are firmly in place and the grill is stable.
  • Should electrically operated accessories (i.e. rotisseries, etc.) be used, be sure they are properly grounded in accordance with local codes. Electrical cords should be placed away from walkways.
  • Use long-handled barbecue utensils to avoid burns and splatters.
  • Wear clothing that does not have hanging shirt tails, frills or apron strings, and use flame retardant mitts when adjusting hot vents.
  • To put out flare-ups, either raise the grid the food is on, or spread the coals out, or adjust the controls to lower the temperature. If you must douse the flames with a light spritz of water, first remove the food from the grill.
  • Use baking soda to control a grease fire and have a fire extinguisher handy. A bucket of sand or a garden hose should be near if you don't have a commercial extinguisher.
  • Never leave a grill unattended once it is lit.
  • Don't allow anyone to conduct any activities around the grill when the grill is in use, or following its use. The grill body is hot during the period of use and will remain hot for a period of time following its use. Always use your grill away from combustible surfaces.
  • Never attempt to move a hot grill.

The purpose of these safety tips is to set forth general safety practices and precautions for the operation and maintenance of barbecue grills. These tips are not intended to be an exhaustive treatment of the subject, and should not be interpreted as precluding other procedures which would enhance safe barbecue grill operations. Issuance of these safety tips should not be construed as an undertaking to perform services on behalf of any party either for their protection or the protection of third parties.

The Barbecue Industry Association assumes no liability for reliance on the contents of this information.

Charcoal/Wood Chunk Grilling Safety Tips

  • When using charcoal briquets or wood chunks, form a pyramid and douse the briquets/chunks with lighter fluid. Wait until the fluid has soaked in before lighting.
  • Lighter fluid should be capped immediately and placed a safe distance from the grill.
  • Never add lighter fluid to existing hot or warm coals.
  • Never use gasoline, or kerosene or other highly volatile fluids as a starter. They can explode.
  • >As an alternative to lighter fluid, use an electric, solid, metal chimney, or other starter specifically made for lighting charcoal briquets or wood chunks.
  • After unplugging, remove a hot electric starter cautiously and be careful where you put it. Always cool starter completely before storing.
  • Never use an electric starter in the rain and/or when standing on wet ground.
  • When using instant light briquets, do not use lighter fluid, electric, solid, or metal chimney style starters. Do not add more instant light briquets once the fire has been lit, add regular charcoal briquets if more is needed.
  • Once the barbecue grill has been lit, do not touch the charcoal briquets/wood chunks to see if they are hot. Keep grill uncovered until ready to cook.
  • All vents should be wide open while cooking. Charcoal briquets/wood chunks require oxygen to burn.
  • Allow coals to burn out completely and let the ashes cool for 48 hours before disposing of them.
  • Dispose of cold ashes by wrapping them in heavy-duty aluminum foil and putting them in a non-combustible container. Be sure there are no other combustible materials in or near the container.
  • If you must dispose of the ashes in less time than it takes for them to completely cool, remove the ashes from the grill keeping them in heavy duty foil and soak them completely with water before disposing in a non-combustible container.

Gas Grilling Safety Tips

  • There are limits on how much propane can be put into a LP cylinder. The typical cylinder holds approximately 20 pounds of propane. This leaves some room for the liquid to expand. DO NOT ask the propane supplier to overfill the cylinder.
  • When the LP cylinder is connected, the grill must be kept outside in a well-ventilated space. When not in use, the LP cylinder valve must be turned to the OFF position.
  • If storing the gas grill indoors, the LP cylinder must be disconnected, removed, and stored outdoors. Never store an LP cylinder indoors.
  • Use a P.O.L. safety plug in the valve of a LP cylinder with a 510 P.O.L. valve with no external threads whenever the LP cylinder is not connected to your grill.
  • Always store LP cylinders upright and in areas where temperatures won't exceed 125 degrees Fahrenheit, and never store a spare LP cylinder on or near a grill.
  • Always check for gas leaks every time you disconnect and reconnect the regulator to the LP cylinder.
  • Never attach or disconnect a LP cylinder, or move or alter gas fittings when the grill is in operation or is hot.
  • Never use an LP cylinder if it shows signs of: dents, gouges, bulges, fire damage, corrosion, leakage, excessive rust or other forms of visual external damage; it may be hazardous and should be checked by a liquid propane supplier.
  • After a period of storage, and/or disuse (for example over winter), the gas barbecue should be checked for gas leaks, deterioration, proper assembly, and burner obstructions before using.
  • Clean the grill twice a year. Watch for rust, paint the LP cylinder to make it more rustproof, and check the regulator, hoses, burner parts, air shutter, and venturi/valve section carefully. Always turn off gas at the source (tank or supply line) prior to inspecting parts. Check the owner's manual for any additional maintenance requirements.
  • Visually inspect hose(s) for abrasion, wear and leaks. A soap and water solution may be used to test for leaks. Never use a flame to check for gas leaks. Replace faulty hose(s), using a parts replacement kit, before operating.
  • When lighting a gas grill, always keep the lid open to prevent an explosion from gas build-up.
  • Do not lean over the grill when igniting the burners or cooking.
  • If a burner doesn't ignite, turn off the gas. Keep the grill's lid open and wait five minutes before trying to light it again. If the burners go out during operation, turn all gas valves to OFF. Open the lid and wait five minutes before attempting to relight, using lighting instructions.

Electric Grilling Safety Tips

  • Basic safety precautions should be used when operating this or any electrical appliance.
  • Never immerse or expose cords, plug or heating element in water or other liquid.
  • Visually inspect cord, plug and all connections for damage and wear before operation. Replace or repair prior to operation.
  • Before plugging in or unplugging electric grill, turn control knob(s) to OFF position.
  • Unplug electric grill from outlet when not in use and before cleaning.
  • >Electrical cords should always be secured during operation to protect against product damage or personal injury.
  • To ensure protection against risk of shock, electric grill should be connected to a grounded outlet in accordance with local codes.
  • Do not use an electric grill in the rain.
  • Do not use electric grill near combustible or flammable materials.


Food Safety Tips For Barbecuing

Barbecuing is popular year around, but people head to their backyards to fire up the grill in record numbers when the temperatures soar. Scrupulously following food safety guidelines is important at all times, but it becomes especially crucial during warm weather because escalating temperatures encourage bacteria and other pathogens to multiply and cause foodborne illness. Here are some simple guidelines to help ensure safe grilling.

  • When shopping for meat, fish and poultry, put them in your grocery cart last. Never buy a package that’s damaged or torn and check "sell-by" and "use-by" dates. Put packaged raw meat in plastic bags so leaking juices cannot cross contaminate other foods.
  • Load grocery bags with meat and other refrigerated foods in the air-conditioned section of the car, not in the trunk.
  • Take groceries home immediately or bring along a cooler with ice packs and place the meat in it. Refrigerate or freeze it as soon as possible.
  • When carrying food to a picnic, the beach or a tailgating party, keep it cold. Use an insulated cooler with sufficient ice or ice packs to keep the food at 40 F. Remove food from the refrigerator and pack the cooler just before leaving the house.
  • If including take-out foods -- such as deli potato salad, coleslaw or baked beans -- eat within two hours of picking them up. Otherwise, purchase them in advance and chill thoroughly, then transport in a cooler and reheat those that should be hot just before eating.
  • If you won’t use meat, fish and poultry within a few days, freeze it immediately.
  • Store refrigerated meat in the coldest part of the refrigerator in its original packaging. The more times the food is handled the more chance of contamination. Put a plate under the package, or place in a plastic bag, to avoid juices dripping onto refrigerator shelves
  • Thaw frozen food in the refrigerator, never on the counter; allow sufficient defrosting time. Or immerse packaged food in cold water to thaw. If you’re in a hurry, thaw in the microwave just before grilling it.
  • Hand washing is paramount. Wash your hands in hot soapy water before preparing food, after each time you touch raw meat, and after any interruptions such as using the bathroom, handling pets, stopping to do something with children.
  • Keep raw meat, poultry and fish and their juices away from other food. That means thoroughly washing cutting boards, knives, platters, etc. before letting them come in contact with other foods you’re preparing or with cooked foods you’re about to serve.
  • Sanitize cutting boards and countertops with chlorine bleach. Pour on small amount and let stand several minutes, rinse thoroughly and air dry or dry with clean paper towel. Soak sponges and dishcloths in hot soapy water to which you’ve added chlorine bleach.
  • Marinate foods in the refrigerator, never on the counter.
  • Boil any marinade to destroy bacteria if you plan to baste with it or serve it with the cooked meat. Never save marinades for a second use.
  • Pre-cook (chicken/ribs) immediately before grilling. Never let partially cooked food sit for more than a few minutes before tossing it on the grill to finish it.
  • Cook meat thoroughly. Rare is no longer de rigueur! Use a meat or "instant read" thermometer to ensure a safe internal temperature. As a guideline, poultry 180F (breasts 170F), beef, lamb, veal roasts/steaks 145F to 160F, any burgers 160F, all pork 160F.
  • When grilling away from home, take meat out of the cooler just in time to put it on the grill and never take out more than will fit for immediate grilling. Keep cooler closed.
  • Reheat foods or fully cooked meats like hot dogs by grilling to 165F, or until steaming hot.
  • Trim excess fat from meat to avoid flare-ups; never char the meat.
  • Refrigerate leftover food quickly (no more than two hours) and use within a couple of days.

Copyright 1998. Reprint by permission only.
Must be reprinted in entirety unless otherwise approved by BIA.
All rights reserved.

Barbecue Industry Association
710 East Ogden, Suite 600
Naperville, Illinois 60563-8614
Tel: 630.369.2404
Fax: 630.369.2488

Copyright 1998. Barbecue Industry Association, Naperville, Illinois U.S.A. All rights reserved under both international and Pan-American copyright conventions. No right of reproduction without the prior written consent of the copyright holder.