Finally, it’s summertime in Northeast Ohio!
With the windchill factor gone from the local weather forecasts, you might be thinking that you no longer have to concern yourself very much with safety at home or outside. But the summer brings its own special brand of hazards that you and your family should be aware of. Whether you own or rent the home where you live, safety should always come first. Here are some tips for protecting yourself and your property while enjoying one of Cleveland’s favorite summertime activities: Grilling.
Protect Your Home and Yourself When Grilling
Cooking outside is fun and exciting, but it’s not something that people in Northeast Ohio can comfortably do all year round. That’s why many Cleveland cookout enthusiasts can’t wait until the summertime, with its long daylight hours and warm temperatures. Having a cookout is a great way to celebrate the summer with friends and family. It may also give you a chance to get to know your neighbors better.
Don’t let a lack of preparedness or a momentary lapse of good judgement spoil your summer day. When you’re out on your deck or patio with the grill having a barbecue, be sure to do all you can to keep your family and your property safe.
- According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the four months in which grill fires are most likely to start are, in order: July, May, June, and August.
- Don’t ever leave the grill unattended! This could put unsupervised children and pets in danger of getting burned. And don’t forget that the grill will remain hot (and therefore dangerous) for a while after you’re done using it.
Know Your Surroundings
- You should only grill outside! Grilling indoors is a huge fire hazard. It will also fill your house with carbon monoxide, which is a deadly gas.
- Make sure, if you’re going to be grilling in a public place such as a park, that you only grill in a designated area. Follow what posted signs say.
- Whether at home or elsewhere, grill in an area that is clear of yard debris such as grass clippings. Fire could spread very quickly through dried organic matter such as this.
- Keep your grill—gas or charcoal—at least 10 feet away from any structure. This includes your home, your garage, a shed, a doghouse, or any other building that could easily catch on fire from a stray spark.
Fire Prevention is the Best Cure
- Prevent clothes, aprons, and oven mitts from getting too close to the fire. These items could ignite and burn you or cause the fire to spread beyond the grill itself into the environment.
- When you’re done grilling, don’t just abandon the grill. If you’re using a gas grill, make sure that you turn off the burners when you’re done. And if you’re grilling with charcoal, remember to close the grill’s lid and its vents to starve the coals of oxygen. Keep in mind that even when you do this, the coals will stay hot for a while after you finish grilling.
In Case of Fire
- Make preparations in advance just in case there is a fire. Water will put out some fires, but not grease fires. Dumping water on a grease fire may even cause it to spread. Baking soda can stop small grease fires, but for larger fires, you’ll need a fire extinguisher.
- Learn how to use your fire extinguisher and keep it accessible. Make sure you have an extinguisher designed to fight cooking fires. Hopefully, you’ll never need it, but you ought to know how to use it in case you do.
Fire is not the only potential hazard you might encounter when grilling. Your food itself could be dangerous if you aren’t handling it properly. Make food safety a priority to avoid wasting a summer evening being ill with food poisoning.
- Keep your meats refrigerated until just before you’re ready to put them on the grill. If you have to transport your meat to a location where there is no refrigerator, then store it in a cooler en route and leave it there until you’re ready to cook. The CDC recommends that meats stay below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Wash your hands before you start cooking. Keeping your hands clean is a good practice anyway, but especially when preparing food. Be sure that you also wash your hands after handling raw meat.
- Be mindful of cross contamination. Dirty hands aren’t your only potential source of danger. Don’t let plates, utensils, or grilling tools that have touched raw meat come into contact with cooked meat (without cleaning them first). This also applies to any marinades or sauces that you may have used to prepare your meats. Dispose of them once you start cooking as they will contain any bacteria that was in the uncooked food.
- Make sure that you cook your food thoroughly. Some people like their burgers rare, but not cooking beef adequately can be hazardous. A meat thermometer inserted into the meat can tell you whether or not the center has been cooked enough (for beef, the inside temperature should be 145 degrees Fahrenheit). A rare burger will be as soft as the palm of your relaxed hand when you poke it with a fingertip. The harder the surface of the burger, the more well-done it is.
- You can still get sick later if you aren’t careful. Leftovers that sit out for too long after grilling can spoil. Put them in containers that you can seal and then chill them. And remember that side dishes such as chicken salad can easily go bad if left out in the heat for too long.
When you’re done grilling, always clean up your mess, including litter, packaging, and food waste. If you’re grilling in a public place, that action shows good citizenship and is a polite thing to do for the person who follows you. If you’re at home, cleaning is just as important. Failing to tidy up will attract insects, raccoons, and other vermin. To thwart them, remove all food waste from the grilling area and put it in a trash container that you can seal tightly, with a bungee cord if possible.
Summer days are here. Get all that you can out of them! Gather your family and friends and start grilling. But do it safely, both for your own health and for that of your home.