DAYTON, Ohio — The U.S. Fire Administration estimates that outside grilling causes at least 6,000 fires, $35 million in property losses, 170 injuries and five deaths each year.
Seen in black and white, those stats are enough to make some want to permanently store the coals, turn off the burners and hang up the LED-equipped tongs. Some, but not many.
The call of meats and vegetables — but mainly meats — cooking on a grill under the hot summer sun, is simply too strong. Many fine, fine human beings will risk loss of limb and property to cook like cave people. The risks listed by USFA are the tip of the grilled iceberg lettuce. (Grilled iceberg is a real thing and is really delicious.) A few lesser discussed backyard grilling hazards.
• Meat shrinkage
You think the outcome will be a big, juicy hamburger. What you get is anything but. Your burger patty has somehow developed bun envy. You pay the ultimate price.
Grilling outside would be perfect if outside were more like inside. Bugs, leaves, dirt and the sun can work together to muck up a perfectly good day outside. Stupid nature.
• Rack failure
The grill rack is a griller's worst and best frenemy. It can support your meal and deliver the grill marks that make diners happy, but oh, boy, watch out if the food falls between the racks. No one appreciates charcoal-dusted steak. No one.
• Flare ups
Hot-spot management is key, especially when it comes to cooking over an open fire. One miscalculation, like not attending to a raging flare up, can lead to meat as thin, tasteless and hard as a hockey puck. You may have to make a penalty shot and order a pizza.
• Singed hair
There is a reason instructions are on the bags of charcoal that comes with lighting fluid pre-applied. It's like other things involving fire — it can kill you. Likewise, gas is not a toy. Trust us, you are going to want to keep your life, limbs and eyebrows.
• The BBQ Bat signal
Grilling can draw unwanted pests, and I am not talking about mosquitoes and yellow jackets. I am talking about your friends, neighbors and other loved ones. The aroma of grilled pork, fish, chicken or beef pulls them in. Just know going into it that one cannot cook out in a vacuum. Serious, don't try to cook out in a vacuum.
• The clean up
Grilling seems easy enough until you are done and your grill is coated with fat droppings, char, coal ash and/or BBQ sauce. You did not take certain precautions. You can just put on the lid and leave the cleanup to the next person, but the next person is likely to be you.
Safety tips from the U.S. Fire Administration:
» Before using a grill, check the connection between the propane tank and the fuel line. Make sure it is not blocked.
» Do not overfill the propane tank.
» Do not wear loose clothing while cooking at a barbecue.
» Do not add lighter fluid to an already lit fire.
» Supervise children around outdoor grills.
» Dispose of hot coals properly — never place them in plastic, paper or wooden containers.
» Douse hot coals with plenty of water, and stir them to ensure that the fire is out.
» Never grill/barbecue in enclosed areas.