America loves to barbecue. A 2009 study by the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association shows that 82 percent of all households in the U.S. own a grill, and 97 percent of grill owners use it at least once a year. But grilling can be dangerous, and not just because you’re cooking with fire. More common—and sometimes more powerful—dangers can be the ones we can’t see, smell or taste.
The following grilling safety tips can help you enjoy a safer and healthier Father’s Day cookout:
• Take cover—The only time that your grill should be uncovered is when you’re using it or it’s cooling down. Why? To start, rodents can sneak in and dine on what they would consider a “grate” restaurant. Or, dirt might blow on to the grilling area. That’s a crunchy treat that nobody wants.
• Say “No” to campylobacter—What is campylobacter? It’s the bacterial pathogen in chicken that, when ingested, can cause a variety of ailments, including vomiting, diarrhea and fever. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one drop of raw chicken “juice” can house up to 500 of these organisms. So, never use a fork, knife or grilling utensil after it has been used to handle raw chicken. Always wash it thoroughly before using it again. While you’re at it, make sure to wash your hands, too.
• Get it right with leftovers—It’s best to only eat leftovers that were safely chilled within an hour of being served, and to discard any leftovers left outside for more than an hour.
• Take a temperature—To be sure that bacteria inside raw meat are destroyed, experts recommend cooking hamburgers and ribs to 160 degrees F. (medium doneness) or until the center is no longer pink and the juices are clear, cooking ground chicken to 165 degrees F., and chicken parts at or above 180 degrees F.
• Don’t get burned—The propane used in gas grills is extremely flammable and, as such, very dangerous. To reduce the risk of explosions, uncontrollable fires and injuries, follow these simple grilling safety tips:
- Never use a grill that has a gas hose that has cracks, holes or leaks.
- Make sure the gas hoses aren’t near the grill’s hot surfaces or areas where grease might drip. Heat and grease can easily burn holes in the hose and cause a gas leak.
- If you find a gas leak, immediately turn off two things: the gas control knob on the propane tank and the gas burners on the grill.
- When lighting a grill that has a top, keep the top open. If too much gas collects under the lid before you light the grill, you could ignite a dangerous explosion.
Following these grilling safety tips will help ensure that you don’t ruin Father’s Day with a bacteria burger, salmonella kabob or grill fire.