Home It’s grillin’ season: Beware of the risk of fires, foodborne illnesses when you cook out

It’s grillin’ season: Beware of the risk of fires, foodborne illnesses when you cook out

Chris Graham
grill cookout hot dog hamburger fire
(© Joshua Resnick – stock.adobe.com)

Nearly seven out of every 10 adults in the U.S. owning a grill or smoker, the source of plenty of good summer eatin’, and also more than 10,000 home fires are started by those grills and smokers each year.

This is according to the National Fire Protection Association, which urges cooks to avoid placing your grills and smokers close to anything that is flammable, including your home, deck railings, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.

“Be cognizant of carbon monoxide with charcoal, pellet, wood and propane grills, and always be cautious of hot surfaces—especially with young children around, as the exteriors of the grill can become extremely hot,” said C.T. Thiemann, Louisa County Farm Bureau president and a caterer for Louisa FFA Alumni.

Between 2014 and 2018, an average of 19,700 patients per year visited an emergency room for injuries involving grills. Children under 5 accounted for about 39 percent of contact-type burns each year, NFPA reported.

The organization recommends keeping children and pets at least three feet away from the grill area, and never leaving a grill unattended.

Propane grill users should check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. NFPA suggests applying a light soap and water solution to the hose—a propane leak will release bubbles.

Keep your grill clean

It’s important to keep the grill clean by wiping down the surface and removing any grease or fat buildup from the grates and trays to avoid both fire and foodborne illness.

Food poisoning peaks in summer months when warmer temperatures flourish, according to the CDC.

The CDC advises cooks to wash their hands before handling raw meat; keep meat refrigerated until ready to grill; thaw and marinate meat safely in a refrigerator, cold water or a microwave; avoid cross-contamination by separating meat into individual plastic bags; and use a food thermometer to ensure all meat is cooked to a safe internal temperature.

“This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your hamburger or steak with some red to pink in it—just be sure you know the safe temperatures for each type of meat,” Thiemann said.

Whole cuts of meat should be cooked to a minimum temperature of 145˚ with a three-minute rest time before carving or eating, fish to 145˚, hamburgers and other ground meat to 160˚, egg dishes to 160˚, and poultry and pre-cooked meals to 165˚.

The USDA recommends that perishable food be consumed or refrigerated within two hours, or within one hour if outdoor temperatures are 90˚ and above.

“Being mindful of these few things will definitely help ensure your summer gatherings are fun, tasty and safe for all activities,” Thiemann said.

For questions about food safety, contact the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline at 888-MPHotline or chat live at ask.usda.gov from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].