The Man Way: Practice Safe Grilling

I could say something about the gender of the person,
but I won't. In any case
 you don't want your grill to look like this.
With the outdoor activities involved in the (hopefully) warm(ish) three day weekend, some consider Memorial Day the unofficial or even official start to summer, though astronomically it is June 21 for the Northern hemisphere. Though grilling season (which I would argue is the same as the seasons of Roadconstruction and Humidity) aligns with the start of baseball and tailgating, Memorial Day is one of the biggest days of grilling. That means a lot of grills that may have not been used all winter are being brought out for the first time. Before you fire that thing up, treat it like one of your tools and be sure you take a few minutes to clean it and ensure you are using it safely. Think of it like a spring tune-up much as you would give your motorcycle or lawnmower after taking it out of storage.

There are three main parts of grill safety: cleaning, lighting, and cooking.


Here are some great instructions on cleaning your gas grill, but be careful with the brushing part. In recent years there have been many reports of injuries due to wire brush bristles left on the grates being swallowed. The CDC even released a warning on it last year. After brushing it is recommended to spray off the grates with a hose to blast off any wires that may have been left behind.


When lighting and using the grill, be especially careful. I am sure you have heard of some of the horrific accidents from gas grills which have been involved in an annual average of 7,100 home fires in 2006-2010, but charcoal or other solid-fueled grills were also involved in an annual average of 1,200 home fires.  One of the most common causes for gas grill accidents is the flame going out - the wind can extinguish it but the gas stays on. People expect to smell the gas, but if cold enough the gas will pool inside the grill's bowl . ESPN's Hannah Storm is a recent example of someone who (barely) survived a gas grill accident, her cautionary tale is here.

Here are some tips from the National Fire Protection Association:

All Grills

  • Propane and charcoal BBQ grills should only be used outdoors.
  • The grill should be placed well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  • Keep children and pets away from the grill area.
  • Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill.
  • Never leave your grill unattended.

Charcoal grills

  • There are several ways to get the charcoal ready to use. Charcoal chimney starters allow you to start the charcoal using newspaper as a fuel.
  • If you use a starter fluid, use only charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire.
  • Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.
  • There are also electric charcoal starters, which do not use fire. Be sure to use an extension cord for outdoor use.
  • When you are finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container.

Propane grills

  • Check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose. A propane leak will release bubbles. If your grill has a gas leak, by smell or the soapy bubble test, and there is no flame, turn off the gas tank and grill. If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again. If the leak does not stop, call the fire department. 
  • If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not move the grill.


Finally, grilling has been shown to create compounds (HCAs) on the food linked with cancer (though the risks are low) so be carefully when actually cooking. If you are worried, some recommended solutions include:

  • Grill fish which form far less HCAs than beef, pork, and poultry.
  • Trim fat to reduce drips which cause flare-ups, scorching, and higher HCAs.
  • Flavor meats with marinades and rubs. Research has shown that marinating red meat in beer or wine for two hours significantly reduced HCAs. Rosemary specifically, known for its high level of antioxidants, can cut HCA levels by up to 100 percent.
  • Pair grilled meats with vegetables, particularly cruciferous ones like broccoli and cabbage contain sulforaphane, a compound that may help the body clear DNA-damaging compounds more quickly.

By my book brats marinated in beer and rosemary with sauerkrat is a pretty goof a recipe for lowering HCA risk.

Most of these are common sense, well except that bristle thing. Really? Who would have expected their brush to release the bristles? I am guessing ones made 'for the grill' aren't as well-made as a regular old wire brush - maybe switch to use one of those. Then be careful when, where and how you use the grill and if worried about HCAs some special recipes. Then enjoy the fruit of your labor.


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