Memorial Day BBQ – Grilling Safety Tips

Tips for grilling are best when they’re the steak variety, but with Memorial Day BBQs around the corner, it’s time to brush up on some grilling safety.

The good news is that the weekend weather around Boston isn’t going to be scorching hot – so fire risks are minimized. But rogue sparks aren’t the only potential hazards to be aware of, so read on to make sure you’re prepared!

Fire Safety

Whether you’re cooking with gas or charcoal, fire is still fire, and it’s always good to take precautions before you even get it going. So let’s start with the basics. First and foremost: get a fire extinguisher. Even if you never need it for a grill gone bad, it’s just good to have one around.

Next, make sure you set up your grill outside in a well-ventilated area. The National Fire Protection Association reports that grills, hibachis and BBQs caused 8,200 home fires from 2005 to 2009, 29% of which were started on a courtyard, terrace or patio. So make sure you have plenty of room to operate so that no one, especially kids, will have to get too close. Also, be sure to check your apartment or condo codes for policies on BBQing if you’re cooking on a balcony.

After you’re set up, it’s time to get the flames going. Half of all outdoor fires involving grills were started when a combustible gas or liquid caught fire – which means propane and lighter fluid. Here are some tips for both gas and charcoal grillers:

  • Gas – Turn off the gas if you notice anything funny about the gas flow; bugs get trapped easily in the hoses, misdirect the gas & cause flare-outs
  • Charcoal – Lighter fluid is your main concern, so go easy on it & never squirt it on a fire that’s already burning

Food Safety

Now that fire safety is covered, it’s time to talk about food. Here are some food safety prep tips for grilling, straight from the USDA:

  • After buying meat, make sure you refrigerate or freeze it within 2 hours of purchase
  • Thaw meat completely before grilling, so that it cooks evenly; let the meat thaw slowly in the fridge or in a sealed package in a bowl of cold water if you can
  • Marinades – If placed in the fridge, poultry & cubed meat can be marinated safely up to 2 days, while beef, veal, pork & lamb can be marinated for up to 5 days
  • Minimum Safe Temperatures – Be sure to cook your meats at least to:
    • All ground meats (burgers, etc) - 160 degrees
    • Poultry – 165 degrees
    • Beef - 145 degrees
    • Pork – 145 degrees
    • Lamb – 145 degrees

After you’re done cooking, put the meat on a clean plate – not the same one you used to carry it out to the grill raw, unless it’s been thoroughly washed. Let the meat rest for a couple of minutes to be sure any harmful bacteria are fully destroyed – and to make sure the kids don’t burn their mouths!

After the meal’s done, be sure to cover any leftovers and put them straight into the fridge.   A general rule of thumb is never to leave food out for more than two hours. According to about.com, you’re more likely to get food poisoning than you are to get the flu, so be smart with handling meats before, during and after your cookout!

Now that safety’s been covered, it’s time for the fun part: planning out the feast. If you’re feeling confident in your BBQ skills this Memorial Day, maybe drop by the Food Network’s Grilling Central to get some ideas for your menu. Bobby Flay and co. have plenty of recipes to read and videos to watch, so take your time and plan out a true Memorial Day BBQ to remember. Here’s a sample video to whet your appetite:

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