LOUISA—The arrival of Memorial Day means it’s summer cookout season, and consumers should keep important safety procedures in mind before firing up their grills.
With nearly seven out of every 10 adults in the U.S. owning a grill or smoker, home fires and related injuries rise in the summer. An average of 10,600 home fires are started by grills each year, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
NFPA urges cooks to avoid placing the grill close to anything that is flammable. Grills should be placed well away from homes and deck railings, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
“Be cognizant of carbon monoxide with charcoal, pellet, wood and propane grills, and always be cautious of hot surfaces—especially with young children around, as the exteriors of the grill can become extremely hot,” said C.T. Thiemann, Louisa County Farm Bureau president and a caterer for Louisa FFA Alumni.
Between 2014 and 2018, an average of 19,700 patients per year visited an emergency room for injuries involving grills. Children under 5 accounted for about 39% of contact-type burns each year, NFPA reported.
The organization recommends keeping children and pets at least 3 feet away from the grill area and never leaving a grill unattended.
Propane grill users should check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. NFPA suggests applying a light soap and water solution to the hose—a propane leak will release bubbles.
It’s important to keep the grill clean by wiping down the surface and removing any grease or fat buildup from the grates and trays to avoid both fire and foodborne illness.
Food poisoning peaks in summer months when warmer temperatures flourish, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC advises cooks to wash their hands before handling raw meat; keep meat refrigerated until ready to grill; thaw and marinate meat safely in a refrigerator, cold water or microwave; avoid cross-contamination by separating meat into individual plastic bags; and use a food thermometer to ensure all meat is cooked to a safe internal temperature.
“This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your hamburger or steak with some red to pink in it—just be sure you know the safe temperatures for each type of meat,” Thiemann said.
Whole cuts of meat should be cooked to a minimum temperature of 145˚ with a three-minute rest time before carving or eating, fish to 145˚, hamburgers and other ground meat to 160˚, egg dishes to 160˚, and poultry and pre-cooked meals to 165˚.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that perishable food be consumed or refrigerated within two hours, or within one hour if outdoor temperatures are 90˚ and above.
“Being mindful of these few things will definitely help ensure your summer gatherings are fun, tasty and safe for all activities,” Thiemann said.
For questions about food safety, contact the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline at 888-MPHotline or chat live at ask.usda.gov from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.