When you’re searing up a storm on your gas grill, crafting cheesy pies in an outdoor pizza oven, or concocting savory sauces on your side burner… Outdoor cooking safety is probably the last thing on your mind.
After all, barbecuing is all about having fun, right? What could possibly go wrong?
Well, without the proper precautions… A lot.
Each year, 22,155 individuals require emergency care due to grilling-related injuries…
Plus, outdoor cooking is the cause of approximately 10,600 annual home fires.
These shocking stats from the National Fire Protection Association show that safety considerations for outdoor appliances should never be shrugged off.
And to keep your own BBQ parties secure… Brushing up on outdoor cooking safety measures is key.
So today, we’ll share with you the essential safety precautions for using your outdoor cooking appliances.
You can’t have the perfect BBQ without prioritizing safety… So let’s get straight to it.
5 Basic Outdoor Grilling Safety Tips
If you’re not caught up on the BBQ safety basics… A day spent outdoor grilling can quickly take a turn for the worse.
So whether you’re firing up your trusty old grill or working with a different outdoor cooking appliance altogether… The following concepts should be applied to ensure your grilling season is safe and sound.
1. Use The Right Tools (And Good Sense) To Avoid Burns
Outdoor cooking over an open flame needs to be done with care.
Obvious as this may seem… Good sense and grilling don’t always go hand in hand, and at the end of the day, accidents happen.
Stats from the National Fire Protection Association prove this point.
Between 2017 and 2021, thermal burns made up nearly half of all annual outdoor grilling injuries. (That’s roughly 10,342 burn cases per year.)
Though this number may be substantial, this safety hazard is actually quite a simple one to curb.
First and foremost, always employ good old-fashioned common sense. Never touch a grill bare-handed unless you’re 110% certain that it’s powered off and cool.
Additionally, ensure that you have the right utensils for outdoor cooking.
The majority of burns occur due to accidental contact with scorching cooking surfaces or splatters from hot grease… And short-handled utensils are often to blame for these incidents.
That’s why specialized outdoor cooking utensils have long handles and heat-resistant grips.
With these, your hands should never even come close to the scalding splatters or searing grill grates, thereby significantly reducing personal burn risks. (For good measure, pair long-handled utensils with heat-resistant cooking gloves.)
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2. Follow Outdoor Grilling Dress Code
Loose clothing is another common culprit for outdoor cooking injury.
So naturally, the best way to avoid accidentally setting yourself aflame while grilling is to leave any loose clothing in the closet.
Anything with hanging shirt tails, frills, long billowy sleeves, or dangling strings won’t be a welcome guest at your grill station… As these can easily come in contact with scorching surfaces or open flames and catch fire.
And seeing as most homeowner’s everyday attire isn’t designed to be flame retardant… It’s especially crucial that you don’t skim past this safety tip.
To avoid any potential catastrophes… Opt for simple, short sleeved, or sleeveless clothes before operating outdoor cooking appliances.
Or, don an apron to keep loose clothing neatly tucked in and snug to your body.
And even with the right dress code, always stay vigilant while cooking outdoors, and be wary that you don’t brush against hot surfaces while cooking.
3. Always Keep An Eye On Your Hot Grill To Avoid Accidents
Protecting yourself from grill burns is one thing… But it’s just as crucial to safeguard those around your grill, especially when it comes to the little ones in your life.
Stats from the NFPA reveal that children under five account for 2,820 contact-type burns per year… So it’s safe to say they should be kept well away from your outdoor cooking area if you’re not around to supervise.
Setting burn hazards aside… You only have so much control over your outdoor appliances and the surrounding environment.
Even if you think everything will be a-okay if you step away… Flare-ups and other unexpected events can still cause a fiery disaster to spark in your outdoor cooking appliances.
And if you’re not in the vicinity… You won’t be able to cut these incidents off at the head, giving fire time to spread to surrounding areas.
So don’t let this safety concern slip your mind… And always stick around during your grilling sessions.
4. Stay On Top Of Safety With Routine Maintenance
Staying on top of routine cleaning is another essential BBQ safety tip.
Improper appliance maintenance can set the stage for malfunctions and grease fires… Neither of which bode well for your personal safety.
Sure, grill cleaning can be a pain… But it’s a small price to pay for your continued wellbeing.
And conducting routine maintenance is the most effective way to prevent any potential safety hazards from sparking in your outdoor appliances.
At the very least, your cooking surfaces and drip trays need to be scrubbed clear of grease and food buildup after each and every use (no ifs, ands, or buts).
This simple task will prevent grease fires from igniting, keep your appliances looking spic and span… And it’ll also allow you to confirm that everything is in proper working order.
During routine cleans, you should keep an eye out for any damaged components or gas leaks (if applicable)… So you can address potential safety hazards and cut off dire consequences before they have a chance to rear their ugly head.
A Quick Note On Grill Cleaning: Avoid using grill brushes with wire bristles for routine grill cleaning. Stray bristles have a tendency to stick to cooking surfaces and can cause severe personal injury if accidentally ingested.
5. Practice Fire Safety Procedures
Even if you practice outdoor grilling safety to a tee… Accidents still happen.
Unfortunately, they’re an unavoidable part of life!
Grease fires are the most common type of grilling related accident… So it’s crucial that you know how to cut these off at the head. (Even if you’re diligent with routine cleaning… You’ll still want to take heed of this know-how!)
First things first, if a grease fire sparks, never be tempted to grab your spray bottle or garden hose. Drenching a grease fire in water will only exacerbate the flames.
Instead, shut off the heat source (if safe to do so), and immediately take action to suffocate the flames. (Cookware covers, sheet pans, baking soda, and class K fire extinguishers can be used to do this.)
Ideally, taking these steps will allow you to smother fire hazards before they get out of control.
But if the issue is too big to deal with… Have your local fire department on speed dial to quickly take care of the issue. (Never attempt to put serious fires out yourself!)
Location, Location, Location: 5 Ways Appliance Placement Can Pose Safety Hazards
While following basic BBQ safety tips is crucial to ensure problem-free outdoor cooking… The above measures aren’t the only thing to keep in mind each grilling season.
Though this safety concern is often overlooked… Carelessly placed outdoor cooking appliances are an open invitation to property damage, home fires, and severe personal injury.
Let’s elaborate, shall we?
1. Keep Your Appliances Away From High-Traffic Areas
It’s essential that your outdoor cooking appliances are placed away from high-traffic areas.
Walkways, paths, or other oft-frequented spots in your backyard are, quite frankly, the worst possible choice for placing your appliances!
It increases the likelihood of guests bumping into a hot grill and getting burnt… Accidentally knocking your cooking appliances over and causing fire spread… Or stumbling into and causing damage to the unit that may lead to malfunctions down the line.
If you happen to have a grill station with built-in cooking appliances… The same concept holds true.
Your outdoor kitchen should be placed away from congested areas…
Plus, your built-in cooking appliances need to be a safe distance from other workspaces where your hands frequently venture.
To reduce the risk of skin-to-grill contact, think of your outdoor kitchen as having two zones: “hot” and “cold.”
The “hot zone” will be host to your built-in grill and other scorching cooking appliances… While the “cold zone” will feature ample space for food prep and other tasks, well away from the heat.
The key takeaway? Don’t place your cooking appliances smack dab in the middle of the action. Doing so will effectively decrease the likelihood of burns, fire, and other potential safety hazards.
2. Flat, Level Surfaces Are A Must For Outdoor Cooking Safety
Not only should your outdoor appliances be situated just so… You also need to take into account the surface on which they will reside.
Namely, your outdoor cooking appliances should always stand on even and level footing… No exceptions.
This will prevent tipping, falling, or rolling away during use.
If the ground beneath your appliance isn’t perfectly even… It may topple over, posing safety threats to small children or pets in the area.
Not to mention… You’re upping your own chance for some seriously bruised and burnt toes.
And if your grill tips or rolls away when ignited… This could lead to fire spreading to the surrounding area.
And if you have an outdoor kitchen… This advice applies for you, as well.
Only place full grill islands on well-supported, level surfaces to prevent structural instability, damaged decks, or toppling kitchen islands.
If you do this… A well-made outdoor kitchen will provide exceptionally stable housing for outdoor cooking appliances, eliminating any risk of rolling, tipping, or toppling grills.
3. Clearance From Combustible Materials Is Crucial
Alright, let’s take a moment to recap.
Your outdoor cooking appliances should be safely positioned on a flat, level surface…
And said surface should be well away from foot traffic.
Next, you need to make sure that your outdoor cooking appliances have ample clearance from any combustible materials.
If not, the risk of grill fire spreading to your property is significantly increased.
To avoid large-scale fire spread… Never place your hot cooking appliances directly against or in close proximity to walls or other combustible structures. (And never integrate built-in appliances into a wooden outdoor kitchen!)
This includes overhead roof structures, deck rails, trees, and dry brush… As well as the exterior wall of your home.
Not only will doing this increase the risk of fire spread… But it’ll also lead to blocked appliance vents. (We’ll go into more detail on the dangers of blocked vents shortly!)
Additionally, always consult local fire codes before constructing a roof structure over your outdoor cooking area…
And thoroughly comb through appliance manuals to identify clearance recommendations from combustible structures.
It’s crucial to adhere to these guidelines… And failing to do so can void your warranty, cause property damage, and — most importantly — compromise your safety.
4. Only Grill In Well-Ventilated Outdoor Areas
It might seem like common sense… But this safety concern is worth mentioning nonetheless.
Outdoor cooking appliances are meant only for outdoor spaces.
You may be tempted to place your outdoor cooking appliances in these semi-closed off areas… And this is where potential safety hazards come about.
Though it may be fine to place outdoor appliances in an indoor-outdoor living space… It’s crucial to ensure that said space has ample open-air access, proper ventilation, and sufficient clearance from combustible materials before you do.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is a real concern when using a gas grill in poorly ventilated areas… And the consequences can leave you seriously sick.
So while it may seem obvious… Don’t overlook the importance of sufficient ventilation (especially when cooking with propane or natural gas).
5. Don’t Block Grill Vents To Avoid These Bitter Consequences
Last but certainly not least… Always be sure that vents on your outdoor cooking appliances remain open and unobstructed.
Vents play a critical role for many outdoor grills and appliances… Allowing excess heat or gas buildup to safely exit the unit. (The same can be said for outdoor kitchen vents!)
When grill vents are blocked… It can lead to overheating, elevated gas pressure, and an increased potential for fire and explosion.
To prevent these hazards… Avoid placing your cooking appliances flush against walls or surfaces that might obstruct the vents.
What’s more… You should never attempt to integrate a freestanding appliance into an outdoor kitchen structure.
Built-in appliances are designed to vent in enclosed spaces… But freestanding appliances? Not so much.
If you attempt to convert freestanding appliances for built-in use, you’ll almost surely wind up with blocked grill vents… And we’ve already told you why this is less-than-ideal.
Now, onto a few final safety measures…
2 Must-Read Electrical Appliance Safety Measures
Unfortunately, electrical hazards account for nearly 4,000 injuries and 400 lost lives each and every year.
(Note: Certain gas and charcoal grills use electrical components like lighting and rotisserie, so take heed of the following if this applies to you.)
1. Only Use Electrical Components Rated For Outdoor Use
Practicing electrical safety indoors is one thing… But electrical components outdoors are an entirely different beast.
Every electrical element in your outdoor cooking area — whether it be an appliance, wire, or outlet — will be exposed to harsh elements, including rain, extreme temperatures, or even snow and ice.
Prolonged exposure to these adverse elements can degrade electrical components over time.
And damaged components won’t only hamper appliance functionality… But they’ll also pose serious safety hazards in the form of electrocution or electrical fires.
To best protect yourself… Be sure to only use outdoor rated electrical appliances, outlets, and wiring.
Outdoor rated electrical appliances will have properly insulated wires to protect from heat, cold, and water exposure…
And it goes without saying, but these will be safer to use outside than anything not rated for outdoor use.
Further, you should only plug electrical appliances into ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets, which will cut power and reduce the risk of electrical shock if water does make its way into the wires.
And for good measure, keep up with cable management, cover all wires, and never use extension cords or power strips to plug in electrical appliances… As you can overload your circuit breaker and pose safety risks.
Finally, don’t fire up electrical appliances during a rainstorm… We don’t have to tell you that electricity and water don’t mix!
2. Conduct Routine Check-Ins On Electrical Appliances
Even if your electrical appliances, wires, and plugs are rated for outdoor use… This doesn’t give you a free pass for negligence.
As we’ve stated before… Your control over the outdoor environment is limited. Even if you’ve taken all the necessary precautions, accidents still occur. (If we’re sounding like a broken record, it’s for good reason!)
So to further ensure electrical safety, it’ll be crucial to regularly inspect all electric appliances and hookups in your outdoor cooking area.
This’ll allow you to catch and remedy damaged or frayed wires early… Ensure everything is in proper working order… And prevent appliance malfunctions, accidental electrocution, and decrease the chance of electrical fires down the line.
And when the grilling season comes to a close… Unplug and store electrical appliances in a dry space or cover built-in units with weather resistant covers to prevent water damage during the off-season, and keep your outdoor cooking components safe to use for next year.
Congrats On Completing BBQ Safety 101... Now What?
At this point, you’ve seen what’s at stake each and every time you use your outdoor cooking appliances…
And now, you have a better idea of what needs to be done to keep things secure.
In conclusion, ensuring safe use of outdoor appliances is straightforward… And by sticking to the tips in this article, you’ll have a better foundation to breathe easy at your BBQ parties.
Before we let you get back to grilling… We commend you for taking outdoor cooking safety seriously.
And if at any point you decide to upgrade your outdoor cooking area to an all-inclusive summer kitchen setup… We encourage you to click through our Learning Hub and other safety resources to see why our custom-made RTA outdoor kitchens are a secure solution.
To give you a taste for what you’ll find…
Each of our islands boasts non-combustible materials… Sufficient ventilation… And comes equipped with outdoor-rated built-in appliances and accessories from Coyote Outdoor Living.
So when you’re ready to take the next steps, we’re just a few clicks away.
And until then… Happy grilling!