Adrienne Wolter shares local restaurant reviews, day trips and cooking adventures
Nothing says summer like a cookout. Grill up some barbeque ribs, hamburgers, grilled corn, and toasted buns, and the neighborhood will petty much wander right into your backyard.
But dealing with open flames and containers of gas can be extremely dangerous. Remember this advice when heating up the barbeque this summer to avoid common grilling mistakes.
Don’t set up your grill on a cramped balcony or directly against your house. A good rule of thumb is a space that allows for five feet of clearance around the grill, with dirt, stone or steel underneath. And don't forget to look up as well as down when picking your spot. If there is a low hanging tree or awning, find another space.
Chances are the kids are sharing the backyard with your grill, so pick a location out of their play areas and explain to them that the grill is absolutely off limits. Don't put the grill right next to the swing set or the sand box. Cover the grill when not in use to further deter curious little hands.
When picking a grill location, be sure it is somewhere well lit. You may be called on to toast s’mores after dark, or maybe you're cooking a romantic dinner for two in the evening. Either way, you can't rely on the very low light from the flames to determine your surroundings, and you could easily burn your hands reaching for a utensil you can't see.
You remove your steaks from the delicious marinade and put them onto a plate to carry out to the grill. Once the steaks have cooked, do you put them back on the same platter? Do you use the same tongs to grab them?
To ensure your guests and family are not exposed to the harmful bacteria present in raw meat (like salmonella or E. coli), swap out the serving platter and utensils for clean ones after the food goes on the grill.
You probably don't work with explosives professionally, so always keep a low flame.
When cooking with charcoal, this is especially important. You only need the charcoals to smolder. When cooking with gas, be sure to open the lid to the grill before you turn on the heat. Why? With the lid down, all of that gas is contained and will explode when you do eventually open the lid. Bye bye, facial hair. So open the lid, turn on the gas, and adjust until the flame is low and manageable.
In case of an emergency, have a fire extinguisher handy and make sure family members know where it is stored.
Your kids want you to push them on the swing. Your significant other wouldn't mind some help setting the table. Your best friend just showed up with a six pack and a hilarious story that just must be told. But it all has to wait.
The appliance with the open flames demands your full attention as long as it is turned on. This is a good idea so you can keep an eye on the food under your care, but it’s also important to shoo away pets or little kids or make sure the flames aren’t getting larger than they should. Walking away from fire is never a good idea, we can agree on that, right?
The Food and Drug Administration provides this helpful guide to making sure your meat is cooked to the correct temperature. For example, steaks should be 145 degrees while ground beef (think hamburgers) should be 160 degrees. Print this out and keep it in the kitchen for easy reference.
The time it takes to reach the desired temperature will be dependent on the thickness of the cut as well as if the meat is coming right of the fridge or if you've been letting it rest on the counter for a time.
After being at the grill for a while, you will get a sense for how long to cook different meat. Until you develop that sixth sense, invest in a meat thermometer to make sure a safe temperature is being reached.
All those bits of leftover meat and dried fat will heat up again as soon as you fire up the grill. Then they will drip down into the flames and cause a flare up like the ones you've been warned about. Also, cleaning the grill after every use is much more manageable than trying to cut through a summer's worth of grime.
Once your food is finished, immediately turn off the heat. If you think to yourself, “I’ll just serve this food, get the drinks and then come back to turn it off” you will most definitely forget. You've been the picture of safety up until now, so finish strong and turn off the grill as soon as the last burger is removed.
So what about you? If you are a self-proclaimed grill master, what advice do you have for safe and delicious grilling this summer? Leave your advice in the comment section below!