If you're getting ready to take your first turn at cranking out those flawlessly charred burgers and brats, you have more to think about than perfecting Dad's secret sauce.
These 10 tips can help you dodge a flaming fail:
Before you grill:
- Inspect the grill. For gas models, clean the hose and connections with soapy water and turn on the gas. If you see bubbles – indicating a leak – turn it off immediately. Clean burners to get rid of insects or dirt that accumulated during storage. On both gas and charcoal grills, check for wobbly wheels or legs that could make the grill unstable.
- Grill outdoors only, well away from your home and out from under covered porches or overhanging branches. Proper ventilation prevents carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Keep a fire extinguisher and baking soda handy in case of a grease fire.
- Make a no-kid, no-pet zone rule. While the grill is hot, they need to play elsewhere.
- (For charcoal grills) Add starter fluid only before lighting. Once it's lit, it's unsafe to add more.
- (For gas grills) Store spare propane containers upright and outdoors.
During the sizzle:
- Keep it clean. Besides starting off with a clean cooking surface, avoid food cross-contamination by using different plates and tongs for raw and cooked foods. Separate vegetables on the grill from raw meat.
- Check temperatures before serving. Use a meat thermometer to make sure your food reaches these temperatures: 165⁰ for poultry and processed meat like sausage; 160⁰ for hamburgers and at least 145⁰ for other meats and fish. If you can't serve food right away, keep it at a safe temperature to avoid bacterial growth: at least 140⁰ for hot foods or refrigerated at 40⁰ or less (you always can reheat when your guests arrive).
After you grill:
- Don't move a still-hot grill. Grills hold their heat for about an hour.
- (For charcoal grills) Let coals cool completely. An ashy appearance isn't enough. Coals can still be hot inside. Dispose of used briquettes in a covered metal container that's kept outside, never in the garage or on a wooden deck.
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