Weathering the storms; Safely barbecuing while it’s cold outside

It seems like every winter there are these tragic barbecuing stories. I came across an article this week reporting that carbon monoxide leached into a family’s home while barbecuing in their garage. Luckily the folks that were barbecuing in their garage had a carbon monoxide alarm in their home and were alerted, some of us may not be so equipped.

Hearing about the above story has prompted me to write this safety reminder article for my readers. I have come up with a few tips that may sound very common sense-like, however it seems like in the winter months more of these frightening barbecuing stories crop up. Another article reports a man suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns from an accelerant doused barbecue. While not a true “winter” hazard, this recent news story was worth mentioning.

There are simple ways to avoid accidents like the two I just described and I am hoping many will read them and stay safe.

Let’s tackle the first example I listed; Barbecuing in your garage. I know it’s cold outside but that is no excuse for putting yourself and your family at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Solutions: 1.) Roll your outdoor grill at least 10 feet away from your home or building structure. 2.) If there is snow outside, shovel a path to your destination then roll your outdoor grill at least 10 feet away from your home or building structure. 3.) Purchase an indoor grill and stay warm and safe barbecuing indoors!

Remember. Never, ever, ever… Ever. Burn charcoal indoors, in vehicles or tents. Be sure to always have a well ventilated area when burning charcoal briquettes!

How about the second example? Dousing your barbecue briquettes with starter fluid. I have fond memories of my uncle Ray with a bag of Kingsford briquettes and his gallon of BBQ starter fluid. After putting the briquettes in the hibachi and puts a quart or so of starter fluid he would say, “Stand back!” Lights the match and throws it into the what would be an inferno. This might have been okay in the 1970’s, but this is the 21st century now and there are other options. Solution: 1.) For under $20 bucks, buy yourself a barbecue chimney starter. It is much safer and your grilled food won’t taste like a petroleum based product! 2.) If you don’t feel like splurging $20 bucks for a chimney starter and you absolutely have to use charcoal briquettes, put a sheet or two of crumpled up newspaper under the bottom grate. Then put around 5 briquettes on top of the bottom grate. Light the newspaper and after the few briquettes heat up and are glowing red, put a nice mound atop of the now hot briquettes. 3.) Purchase a gas or electric grill. I know it isn’t the same as that “charcoal taste”, but at least you won’t burn your face off!

I don’t condone using BBQ starter fluid, but if you must… Do not ever spray your starter fluid directly onto hot coals!

Before you use your outdoor gas grill, be sure to spray soapy water on the connections and supply lines. If you see bubbles turn off the tank, tighten connections and test again. If you still have leaks, you may need to replace a part or two of your equipment.  It’s also a good idea to inspect the lava rocks and clean the grease and soot that has accumulated around the area.

There you have it. I think we gave our best shot at a couple real safety issues. The number one winter BBQ safety issue [in my opinion] being carbon monoxide poisoning. Be safe, keep warm and happy barbecuing!

About A.J.

Owner and creator of Worked in the BBQ industry since 1987. No longer in the restaurant business, however I am enjoying experimenting at home smoking, grilling, barbecuing and writing about my experiences here on!
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