If you grill with charcoal, upgrade for safety

For some people, Memorial Day marks the start of outdoor grilling season. Others, like our family, grill year-round.
     Either way, it’s good to review a few grilling-safety tips now that the dry season is upon us.
     Some tips are so obvious and rooted in common sense, they hardly seem worth repeating. Like, “inspect your grill, grill outdoors only, and let charcoal cool completely before disposing it.”
     I have another tip, specifically for old-school cooks who grill with briquettes rather than gas.
     At home we’ve grilled with a 22-inch Weber Kettle for as long as I can remember. Despite reports of briquette smoke possibly being carcinogenic, we prefer the great taste you get only from briquettes. Gas grills approximate that flavor, but for us, close isn’t satisfying.
     Every 10 years or so our Weber Kettle wears out and I buy a new one, for less than $100. This spring my wife bought one for my birthday, but she upgraded to the Weber Kettle Premium for a key safety feature: an enclosed aluminum ash catcher.
     The standard Kettle has an open aluminum tray. That can be a problem, especially if you grill on a wood surface (which PEMCO frowns on). If the tray gets too full of ashes, hot coal fragments can spill over the side and sear your deck or burn holes in it. More than once I’ve had to pour water on such wayward briquettes.
     Or, wind gusts can blow hot embers out of an open tray. As noted recently, airborne embers are known to cause fires, especially in rural communities.
     Upgrading to the Weber Kettle Premium cost my wife $50 more than the standard Kettle. That’s money well spent. Now, hot embers and ashes are confined within the deep, enclosed tray, regardless of wind gusts. And once the ashes are cold, it’s quick and easy to remove and dump the tray.
     Plus, the Premium also includes a built-in kettle-top cooking thermometer.
     Weber doesn’t pay me to pitch its product. I’m simply relaying a tip from my own experience, as someone who preaches PEMCO’s mantra: Don’t Get Burned!

by  Jon Osterberg

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