Need an excuse to get a head start on summer? How about National Barbecue Month? That's the month of May, a great time to get outside and get cooking.
Here are a few tips to help ensure a season of safe and happy cookouts.
Know the Law
Before you fire up the grill, be sure you won't run afoul of state, city or homeowners association (HOA) regulations, especially if you live in an apartment or a condominium. For example, California state fire code for apartments, condos and townhouses forbids charcoal grills on combustible balconies or decks or within 10 feet of combustible construction, unless the building is outfitted with an automatic sprinkler system. The same goes for gas grills with fuel tanks of more than 1-pound capacity. HOA rules typically reflect local codes, but they can be even stricter; some simply forbid anything but electric grills.
Check for Leaks
If you have a gas grill, make sure no gas is leaking by rubbing a solution of dish soap and water on the hoses and connections. Turn on the gas with the grill lid open (don’t light it) and watch for bubbles, which indicate tiny holes in the hoses or too-loose connections.
Light It Right
With a charcoal grill, go easy on the lighter fluid, and never add fluid to a fire or to coals that are already hot. Better yet, try an electric starter or a chimney starter. With a gas grill, always keep the lid open when lighting to prevent gas buildup. If a burner won't light, shut off the gas and wait five minutes for the gas to dissipate before trying again.
Give Yourself Some Room
Keep your grill, either charcoal or gas, at least 10 feet away from the house and out from under any wooden overhangs, tree branches or hanging decorations. Keep children and pets away, and don't leave it unattended. And, never, ever use a grill indoors.
Keep It Clean
Grease and fat that collects in your grill builds up quickly and can be a major cause of dangerous flare-ups. Clean your grates after every use, and clean under the grates periodically as well.
Keep a fire extinguisher close by, and know how to use it. For small flare-ups, a spray bottle full of water may be useful, but baking soda is a better bet for a grease fire.
Let the world know what you think, but do so responsibly. Comments are moderated and we will not post personal attacks, obscene language or inappropriate material, comments with links, or comments from people under the age of 18. If you have a question, check out our Comment Submission Guidelines.