We Brits love nothing more than taking to our BBQ when the sun comes out. But carefree cooks can be bad news for greenery, with 1 in 30 gardens falling victim to barbecue-related damage.
So, whether you’re in your own garden or out and about somewhere else, our tips for safer grilling will help you make the most of the great outdoors this year.
Before you fire up the BBQ
Give it a good once-over. If it’s seen better days, consider what needs repairing or even invest in a new one.
For gas BBQs, it’s a good idea to do a simple leak check every time you reconnect the grill to the gas cylinder, especially after long periods without use:
1. Put some soapy water in a spray bottle, or in a bowl with a brush
2. Turn on the gas bottle — but not the BBQ — and spray (or brush) from the gas cylinder valve, right up to where the hose attaches to your grill
3. Watch for bubbles appearing. If you spot any, chances are there’s a leak
4. Turn off the gas and give everything a wipe down, with clean water
If there is a leak at a joint, tighten slightly but be careful not to over tighten. If the hole is in the hose somewhere, it’s best to fit a new hose rather than trying to patch it. And if you’re in any doubt, your barbecue manufacture should be able to advise.
Choosing the right spot
Ideally your grill should be ten feet from your home, and from any shed, trees or shrubs. It should be on level ground to avoid tipping, so an open patio or lawn is perfect.
If your outdoor space is quite restricted, the BBQ might not be your best dining option!
Using your gas BBQ safely
Whilst using your BBQ, stand the gas hose and cylinder as far away from it as you can to stop any hot meat juices or oils dripping onto the hose. Also store any unused gas cylinders outside, but not near your lit grill! A permanently-shaded spot or outhouse is good.
When your gas bottle runs empty, switch all valves and controls to ‘off’, and change it in a well-ventilated area. Once you’ve finished cooking, first flick the gas bottle valve to ‘off’, then turn off the grill. This will make sure that any gas trapped in the pipes is fully used up.
Cooking on your charcoal BBQ
You only need to use enough charcoal to cover the base of your grill, so about 2 inches deep should be plenty. If you use firelighters, go for recognised, reputable, brands and add them when the coal is cold. Don’t be tempted to use petrol to get things going faster. A good BBQ takes time!
Giving the grill your full attention
Outdoor cooking comes with a lot of distractions — children, dogs, beer — but leaving the grill unattended is a major cause of barbecue-related accidents.
So, when you sign up to be chef, make sure you stay at the grill until the last burger is (thoroughly) cooked, and the coals are extinguished.
Post-BBQ cool down tips
Hot coals, in any kind of bin, are a fire risk. So let yours cool for 24-48 hours in your BBQ, with the lid on and vents closed. Once they’re completely cold, wrap them in something non-combustible — like an old coffee can or piece of tin foil — then pop them in the bin.
Once there’s no flame, you can cool your coals quicker by stirring them with something long-handled and spraying them with water. Then put the lid on the grill and close the vents. Just remember that things can remain very hot for several hours after use.
If there is a fire?
Proper pre-emptive measures should keep you safe, but have a bucket of water or sand on standby in case of any minor incidents. If you’re thinking about getting a home extinguisher, foam, dry powder or a fire blanket are the best options for oil and fat-related fires.
Cooking safely whilst out and about
The British summer isn’t always kind to us, but BBQing inside your vehicle or tent is never advised! Pack a fold-out table to cook from and open up the boot to give you some shelter if the weather’s not good.
If you can’t carry a table with you, set your BBQ or stove up on flat ground. Make sure it’s away from anything flammable, which includes grass in the summer. Hot, dry weather and stray flames can easily cause forest or grass fires. So stay with your BBQ until it’s fully extinguished, and dispose of any smoking materials properly.
If a fire does start that you can’t safely extinguish, whether you’re at home or away, call the fire and rescue service right away on 999 or 112.