Summer's still in full swing, which means that if you're anything like us, you've got the grill going at least a few times a week! But it's important to remember that for grilling to remain fun and delicious, safety should always be on the brain. These grilling safety tips will keep you in good health and good spirits while you're grilling up dinner.
Organic Doesn't Stop with Ingredients
Of course, you're already picking organic meats, organic veggies and even organic fruits to grill, but have you thought of the other materials you grill with that might not be certified organic?
1. Choose Organic Charcoal
One of the most important things to choose organic is charcoal. In her guide to organic grilling, Maria Rodale, CEO and Chairman of Rodale, Inc. recommends using certified organic charcoal, which is usually made either with organic bamboo or organic coconut, to minimize both the inhalation and transfer onto food of toxic chemicals present in non-organic types of charcoal.
2. Choose Organic Planks for Grilling
Organic planks for grilling have become fairly easy to find, and since they'll be coming in full contact with the foods you choose to grill, it's important to select only the best.
Gather the Right Tools
When you're getting ready to grill, it's imperative that you have the right grilling tools around you. But do you know what those tools are?
3. Use Long Tongs and Spatulas
When it comes to grilling, two of the most useful tools are tongs and a spatula. You can achieve 90 percent of your grilling desires with just these tools -- so why not splurge a little bit?
Don't grab the same metal spatula and tongs that you use in the kitchen for outdoor cooking. Instead, purchase a 16-inch pair of metal grilling tongs and an extra-long grilling spatula with a wooden handle, to keep it from conducting heat and burning you.
4. Use a Grill Chimney
Rodale says that using a grill chimney is the ideal way to eliminate the need for lighter fluid. And she's right!
A grill chimney allows you to stack charcoal where it heats and starts to smolder much more quickly than if it were spread out over a larger surface. This negates the need to add toxic fluid to your grill, but it means you can still get dinner on the table on time.
5. Don't Be Afraid of Specialized Tools
While starting to grill more healthfully shouldn't be a huge investment, you may want to start adding a few specialized tools to your arsenal as you become more advanced. A nonstick grilling basket is great to grill more delicate foods like fish. You may also want a digital thermometer to make sure you're cooking all your meats to their ideal internal temperatures.
6. Choose a Non-Metal Brush for Cleaning
When you buy a set of grill tools, one of the things you'll likely see is a metal or wire scrub brush for cleaning the grill once you're done. But Rodale warns against this, saying that a sponge or wood grill scraper is the better option. With a metal brush, wires can break off and fall into or onto the grill, posing serious health risks; the same risks do not exist for a sponge or wooden scraper.
Use your safe tool of choice and this quick and easy grill cleaning checklist to make sure your grill is safe and clean before preparing any meal.
Be Aware of How You Cook
How you cook is just as important as what you cook! Keep these tips in mind.
7. Cook Low and Slow
You may have heard about grilling being linked to cancer; in fact, that may have kept you from breaking out your grill this season. But there's no need to worry about this if you know how to grill properly.
Grilling low and slow is the ideal way to stave of the carcinogenic properties of grilling, and it's also great for making sure the foods you're grilling are tender and cooked through to perfection.
8. Clean All Dishes
This may seem obvious, but be sure that you're not cross-contaminating while you grill. This is easy in the kitchen, when dirty dishes go straight into the dishwasher or sink, but outdoors, you may be tempted to put cooked meats on the same plates you carried them outside on. Don't! Cross-contamination is one of the main ways that food borne illness is transferred, and not a pleasant way to follow up your barbecue.
Prepare for Emergencies
While grilling should be a fun way to enjoy the great outdoors, you are dealing with an open fire, and occasionally, the need to avoid an emergency may arise. Make sure you're prepared!
9. Clear A Space
Especially if you live in a dry area, you're going to want to be sure to clear a space where you can work without fearing that the grass or anything dry beneath your grill will accidentally catch on fire. Choose to grill on an area that has stones or brick beneath it, not wood or grass. You may even want to build a grill if you're grilling often, so your setup is a breeze.
10. Keep Sand Near Your Grill
Common sense may dictate that you keep water near the grill should flames overwhelm your barbecue, but most experts say that sand is a better choice. Take a look at some of these extinguishing methods, and keep an emergency fire extinguisher nearby to keep barbecues explosive with flavor, not flames.
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Grill image via Shutterstock