Few summer traditions are as beloved as the backyard barbecue. Typically laid back get-togethers with family and friends, backyard barbecues are synonymous with warm weather and the relaxed atmosphere that such weather promotes.
But even the best backyard barbecue comes with some level of risk. Cooking over an open flame will never be risk-free, but there are steps barbecue enthusiasts can take to make their next summer soiree that much safer.
* Check for leaks. Due to their ease of use and convenience, propane grills have grown in popularity over the years. However, proponents of propane grills should inspect the propane tank as well as its hoses for leaks, cracks and corrosion. Any of those problems has the potential to be very dangerous, so address any issues before guests arrive. If guests are on their way already, simply visit the local hardware store and purchase a new tank or replace the damaged one. If the hoses are damaged, buy a charcoal grill to fill-in for the propane grill during the party. Charcoal grills are much less expensive than propane grills, and it might be a good idea for households that frequently host guests during grilling season to have a backup grill anyway.
* Make the grill area a nonsmoking section. Some guests will want to smoke, and since the party's outdoors, this shouldn't be an issue. However, protect the food and reduce the risk of injury by insisting the area surrounding the grill is a nonsmoking section.
* Dress in tighter clothing. The party's grillmaster should not wear loose clothing. Loose-fitting clothing, particularly long sleeves, can dip into the grill and potentially catch on fire. Avoid this risk by wearing tighter clothing that doesn't hang off the body.
* Be certain all briquettes are extinguished. For those who prefer a charcoal grill, once the cooking has been completed be careful to extinguish all briquettes. If briquettes are discarded before they are full extinguished, they could easily spark a fire. Many a garbage can, and considerably more, has been lost to briquettes that were discarded before they were fully extinguished. As a safety measure, pour water over briquettes and never discard any briquettes that are still hot.
* Never move the grill indoors. If an unexpected summer rain storm arrives on the night of the party, the grill should stay outside while the guests move indoors. A grill, whether it's propane or charcoal, should never be used indoors because of the risk of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning.
* Keep kids and pets clear. It's easy for kids and pets to suffer burns when around the grill. Kids might not be tall enough to see what's on the grill and, to make up for that, will grab the grill with their bare hands and push themselves up. This is almost certain to lead to burns. Pets don't know any better and are likely to get burned or even tip the grill over if they're allowed near it.
* Don't be liberal with the lighter fluid. When grilling on a charcoal grill, it's not always easy to get the fire started. As a result, many people look to lighter fluid to help speed the process along.