Summer is almost here, and it is BBQ season.
Keeping safe and remaining healthy when cooking outdoors for family and friends is a top priority.
In this article, the President of the UK BBQ Association, Ben Bartlett, provides some useful BBQ health and safety tips to keep in mind:
BBQ Health and Safety
Summer is just around the corner and BBQs are being dusted off ready for some parties and good cooking. It makes sense at this time of the year to raise some of the issues around BBQ health and safety and not just the obvious.
In the last few years as BBQing has grown in popularity and “innovations” have occurred, there have been noticeable references to health and safety when using BBQs, especially BBQs that use charcoal or wood. People are people and many of us learn by trial and error but as reports into safety and health issues increase, a do and do not set of rules when BBQing is becoming easier to create and more necessary. Many of the points are pure common sense but common sense has a habit of flying out the window when it comes to summer and having a few drinks with food cooked outdoors.
BBQ: It’s an outdoor Thing
BBQing is an outdoor thing. Sure, there are purpose-built BBQs that can be used indoors, and gas BBQs are ok to use. However, when using a real fire or charcoal burning BBQ indoors there are some simple rules. The simple rules are one golden rule and it is VENTILATE. Carbon Monoxide is a silent and invisible killer and charcoal can create lots of it in an unventilated space.
Barbecuing indoors needs to be done properly with the correct equipment and set up in a manner designed for an indoor BBQ. Just bringing your BBQ into the garage or even into the lounge (yes, some people do) is not good enough if the truth is to be told. Despite many BBQ manufacturers claiming that their equipment can be used indoors it is not recommended. A bit of smoke indoors may seem like a fun thing at the time, but it can be a killer.
Basic BBQ Safety
Every year many people get injured at BBQs. Very often every accident is preventable and nearly always an accident happens because basic BBQ safety has been ignored. A Barbecue, especially charcoal or real fire barbecues are dangerous pieces of equipment. Anything hot where people are milling around can soon become a lethal weapon and just saying “accidents happen” really is not good enough. Every year hundreds of BBQ related sources produce BBQ safety guidelines and they do so for very good reason.
When lighting a Barbecue there are some common-sense basics that must be adhered to:
• Never light a barbecue inside a garage or indoor space unless the grill is fully ventilated – even then don’t do it!
• Keep the barbecue at least 10 feet away from your house, fences, hanging branches or anything flammable – use your eyes and think!
• Always make sure your barbecue is on level ground and has a stable base – create a designated space for your barbecue.
• Light your barbecue safely, ideally with a long match or mechanical lighter specific for barbecues.
• Don’t wear loose clothing – sounds crazy but things happen!
Once your barbecue is a light and heating up you can soon get cooking. Once again, when you are cooking there are some safety tips you need to consider. These include:
• Never leave your barbecue unattended.
• Keep children away from the barbecue.
• Use proper barbecue long-handled tools, a fork from the cutlery draw is not enough.
• For extra safety consider wearing flame-retardant gloves when barbecuing.
• Watch out for wind as sparks can be blown and fires easily spread.
• Keep a fire extinguisher handy if you have one.
Barbecuing safely is not difficult if you just use common sense. When you are barbecuing you are quite literally playing with fire. Even once you have finished cooking there are a handful of safety considerations that are easily overlooked. Things to think about and take note of are:
• The barbecue remains hot for some time so keep children away from it.
• Always allow your barbecue to cool completely before you move it or put it back in storage.
• Clean your barbecue and make sure you dispose of ash properly – it is good for the garden.
• Put your lighter fluid, matches and lighter back into a safe place away from children.
• Allow the grill to cool completely before moving it.
• Clean out the inside of the grill and empty debris into a metal container with a tight-fitting lid.
• Store the lighter fluid, matches and lighter away from small children.
BBQ Health: Lighting your fire
Safety is a big concern when you have a BBQ, but equally health is now something that must be considered. There has been a lot of discussion in recent years about BBQ health, especially around firelighters and disposable barbecues.
To be honest, Firelighters, the waxy brick type firelighters are disgusting things. Given a choice they are not ideal for a BBQ, even though they claim to be made for the purpose. Firelighters are full of toxic chemicals that even once burnt out can remain in the coals. Firelighters stink and that stink can begin to taint food.
However, there are growing numbers of “green” or natural firelighters that are less toxic. When choosing to light your charcoal with firelighters take a close look at their packaging and read what is inside them. Choosing a green or natural alternative is always better.
My favourite BBQ lighting fuel is FireDragon. It is available in solid and gel and burns cleanly, is eco-friendly, non-toxic, odourless and easy to ignite even when wet and if necessary, it can also be used as a hand cleanser.
Video of FireDragon in action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MS5-XDHMSsQ&index=13&list=PLj3n3Df5AOjWvaRHXVM_nbe223KyFRwV_
BBQ Health: Disposable Barbecue
It seems that everything in life is becoming disposable and the same is true with Barbecues. They have been around for a few years now and they are extremely convenient. However, there are growing concerns around the health and safety of using these tinfoil trays.
There are a few things to consider when it comes to disposable barbecues, especially the cheaper ones. Some of the barbecues use fire lighting materials that give off very toxic fumes, some even have charcoal from tainted or chemically improved materials that can further taint food. Some cook food ok but others just do not work, some could even be poisonous.
Things to consider when using a disposable barbecue are:
• How strong the container is – some have thin trays that burn through and start secondary fires.
• What is used to light the coals – very often quite toxic materials are used that can taint the food during cooking.
• What charcoal is used – charcoal and briquettes are mass produced and very often chemicals are used to “improve” them, and these chemicals can enter the food!
Given a choice, disposable barbecues should be avoided. Barbecuing is an art and is a way of cooking healthy food. Disposable barbecues just have too many concerns around the health and safety in using them. When you really consider what you are paying for with a disposable barbecue it is a bit of a rip off, disposable and convenient it may be but is it really barbecuing?
Happy BBQ Days
Summer is almost here, and it is BBQ season. Keeping safe and remaining healthy when cooking outdoors for family and friends is a top priority but so is having a good time. By following simple common-sense advice and barbecuing properly, every BBQ you host will be a resounding success and your food will taste amazing!
© Ben Bartlett FBII, MIH, MCGC, AMRSPH, MCGB
President British BBQ Association