For those who enjoy outdoor cooking, few activities can rival the fun of preparing meat and vegetables over a charcoal grill. For the novice, it seems like a simple operation. You light the charcoal and throw the food on the grill. Anytime that you mix human beings and fire, you can have disastrous results if proper safety is not exercised. A charcoal fire can be one of the more dangerous because people see it as contained and docile.
1. When using a charcoal grill, always keep a generous supply of water on hand.
Unlike electric or gas grills, a charcoal type does not have a knob that you can turn to adjust the heat or turn it off. A measure of control can be achieved by regulating the airflow to the fire by opening and closing ports. The lid can be shut to help keep the flame from becoming too intense. However, these adjustments are not instantaneous or precise. If the fire begins to get out of control, water is your only sure way of reducing the light quickly. A large bottle or bucket filled with water or a garden hose with hand grip sprinkler are good options to keep near the charcoal grill.
The water may also come in handy for maintaining the cooking temperature.
2. Always be on guard for steam.
Although water will cool a charcoal fire, steam is produced when the water hits the hot coals. If you are reaching across to apply the water, the steam can rise with enough heat to damage your skin. The water can also cause grease that might be flaming inside to erupt and shoot fire upward that can ride the steam and magnify the amount of the burn.
3. Never start a charcoal fire with gasoline.
This might seem like a ridiculous thing to say. During the summer, many trips are made to the emergency room because someone did not follow this tip. Gasoline is very explosive. When people try to use it as a charcoal starter, they never anticipate the fireball that can be created with gas meets a flaming match. Because gasoline burns so quickly, it does not do that great at starting a charcoal fire. Charcoal lighter is much slower burning and helps to ignite the majority of the briquettes that it saturates.
4. Do not spray charcoal lighter on charcoal that is already burning.
This will help spread the flame, but the vapors created as the lighter fluid sprays through the air will ignite much faster than the fluid that you soak into the charcoal. This can create the same type of problem as using gasoline to light the fire. The best way to light the fire is to be generous with the lighter fluid at the beginning. Always wait 30 seconds or so to light the fire. This will let the starter fluid be absorbed by the charcoal and burn longer after it is lit.
5. Keep small children away from the charcoal grill.
It is a good idea to train children to never go near it, whether it is lit or not. Doing this will help keep them from getting burned when it has a fire inside. The exterior of a charcoal grill can quickly get hot enough to burn human skin. If it would happen to get tipped, the hot charcoal could do extreme harm before the child could be rescued.
6. Locate the charcoal grill on a stable level place away from the traffic flow.
You never want to risk tipping the grill. This requires that it is placed on a stable level footing. The footing can be the ground, a deck, or a patio. Avoid placing the grill on a direct route that will encourage lots of people to pass near it as they walk from one place to another. Besides ruining the food that you are cooking, the risk of severe burns, a house fire, or a brush fire should always be a concern.
7. Never leave a charcoal grill unattended while it is burning.
Most cooks will not abandon what they’re cooking. After the cooking is over, many people will go off to eat and just let the grill burn itself out. This is not a terrible plan if you can continue to watch the restaurant while you are eating. If it is to be out of sight, you should extinguish the fire before leaving the grill. If you put the fire out with water, go ahead and make sure to cool off the exterior of the charcoal barbecue at the same time. This way, you can relax while eating without worrying that someone could get hurt by the fire.
8. Safety Tips for Grilling on a Balcony
If you live in an apartment or townhouse, putting your grill on your balcony may be your only option. But having it so near the building and potentially under a gallery for a unit above, yours presents a significant fire hazard. Stay safe with these grilling tips.
9. Know the Rules
Before you place your grill on your balcony, make sure it’s allowed. If you rent, check with your landlord to determine if he will enable grills on the terraces. You don’t want to get in trouble over the restaurant. If you own, check on local codes. They might restrict the use of barbecues on balconies or within a certain distance of the building.
Verify the type of grills that are allowed before purchasing or using one on the balcony. In many cases, you are only allowed to use a gas type on a balcony and not charcoal. Make sure you purchase not only the right kind of grill but the correct size as well. Get an idea of the different options of restaurants based on type or size on the Outdoor Cooking Pros website.
The placement of your grill is another factor in keeping it safe on a balcony. Start with a grilling mat underneath the grill. This protects the gallery underneath from the heat. Position the rack so it is away from the building itself. Watch for proximity to railings — especially if they are wood — and any overhangs above the balcony.
Another consideration is air intake into the home. If you place it right next to an air intake, it can suck the fumes into your house.