Sunday, September 5, 2010

Safety First When Playing With Fire

Greg and I have been enjoying the beautiful weather -- and our grill -- this weekend, and I bet lots of folks have been doing the same thing, and/or are planning a big barbeque for Labor Day. Having experienced a bit of an accident that could have turned catastrophic yesterday (see below), I figured this was as good a time as any to review some grilling safety tips:

*Think Clean. When preparing food indoors or out, keep your hands and cooking surfaces clean. Don't forget to rinse and scrub fruits and veggies, and never place cooked food on plates or surfaces used for raw meat, poultry or fish. Utensils and plates used for raw meat, poultry or fish should be washed in hot, soapy water before re-using.

*Turn Up the Heat. Use a meat thermometer when cooking meat or poultry to make sure it has reached a safe internal temperature. This means 165F for poultry, 160F for beef hamburgers (sorry, medium rare or rare simply isn't safe), 145F for beef, veal and lamb steaks, roasts and chops, and 160F for pork.

*Keep It Hot. After cooking, keep hot foot hot until serving -- this means at least 140F (below that temperature, bacteria can grow rapidly).

*Stay Cool. If a dish requires refrigeration (e.g., mayonnaise and mayo-based salads, cold cuts, etc.), keep it refrigerated as long as possible before placing in a cooler to travel or to enjoy outdoors. Make sure your cooler has plenty of ice to last as long as necessary (ideally, refrigerated foods should be kept at 40F or below, because bacteria grow rapidly at above 40F).

*Watch the Clock. Once served -- taken off the grill or out of the cooler, for example -- don't let food sit out for longer than two hours. If serving food outdoors and it's hotter than 90F (the day's temperature, not the food), don't let food sit out for over one hour. Longer than that, and bacteria will multiply quickly.

*Careful with that Fire Starter! This one almost burned Greg yesterday, literally! A long-handled lighter is a great way to light a charcoal chimney or grill, and is usually quite safe -- unless, of course, it suddenly cracks and spills lighter fluid all over your t-shirt, as happened to Greg. Being the smart guy that he is (and given that we were on our back deck, not at a park or someone else's home), he went inside and changed shirts BEFORE trying to light the coals using a different lighter. If you end up spilling lighter fluid on yourself, PLEASE don't risk catching yourself on fire. Change shirts if at all possible (and of course wash any fluid off your hands, arms etc.). A long match or long-handled lighter (one that isn't leaking!) will keep you from burning your fingers when starting a fire. If you use starter fluid, only use charcoal lighter fluid (never gasoline or other flammable liquid) and NEVER add charcoal fluid once coals or kindling have already been ignited.

*Quench the Flames. When you're finished grilling, let the coal and ashes cool completely before disposing of them in a metal (non-flammable) container. DON'T dump them in a trash can, or you just might start a real fire. It's a good idea to have a spray bottle of water to spray over the coals and ashes to make sure they're completely out before disposing of them.

*Beware the Smell. If using a gas grill and you suddenly start smelling gas while cooking, this is BAD. Get away from the grill ASAP and call the fire department.

*Stay Away from Danger. Make sure your grill is located a safe distance from the home, deck railings, overhanging branches, and anything else that could catch fire.

*Keep Kids & Pets Away. Declare a three-foot "kid-free & pet-free zone" around the grill, for everyone's safety. The last thing you need is little ones (of the two-footed or four-footed variety) running into the grill and knocking it over or getting burned - or bumping you into the grill and getting you burned, or knocking food out of your hands, etc.

*Moderation, Please. If enjoying "adult beverages" while manning the flames, do so in moderation. A drunk cook is more likely to burn the food or themselves, or cause an accident, or overlook good food/fire safety practices, or inadvertently let the coals burn out before all of the food is fully cooked (as recently happened to one of my readers, who shall remain nameless).

With that in mind, here's wishing everyone a safe and tasty Labor Day!

Zestfully yours,
Carolina Sauce Company

PS: Make sure to follow SaucyGlo on Twitter tomorrow, as I'm going to post a one-day-only Labor Day coupon exclusively for my Tweeps!

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