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Tuesday Tasty Tip 5/10/2010
Grilling Your Food and NOT Yourself
In a previous TTT (Tuesday Tasty Tip), I believe in March, I talked about giving your grill a thorough cleaning before running out to replace your tired uneven heating grill. Sometimes all you need to do to bring your grill back to life is a thorough cleaning. Since summer is upon us, I thought it appropriate to start a series devoted to grilling and outdoor cooking. Over the next few weeks, I will provide you with tips, tricks and traps of the art of grilling, as well as some of my recipes.
The best place to start is “Safety.” All it takes to ruin a perfectly great grilling is an accident accompanied by a 6-hour wait in an emergency room and a $650 hospital bill. The safety rules below may all seem common sense to most. However, realize all those safety instructions and disclaimers in your grill’s documentation that are longer than the actual operating instructions were written by high-dollar lawyers because someone somewhere sued the manufacturer because they lacked common sense and wanted someone else to pay for their stupidity or ignorance. To that end, I respectfully submit the following safety rules.
If you still have the owner’s manual, READ IT! It will contain all the information you need to operate your grill safely. If you do not understand the instructions, try finding your home language. The owner’s manuals are written in English, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, as well as the Himba, Surma, Herero, Erbore Africa dialects. If you do not have your original documentation, read on, then contact the manufacturer for replacement documentation.
ALWAYS have a fire extinguisher or water source at hand. Check your fire extinguisher annually and verify a full charge. Once used, discard it and purchase another (if yours is not rechargeable). Even if it still has some charge, replace it. Don’t gamble on a half-filled extinguisher.
Because of the high thermal load and capability of grills, make sure your extinguisher is big enough to handle to the worst-case fire. You don’t want the embarrassment of showing the firefighters your little $5 fire extinguisher you bought at a neighbor’s garage sale, buy the right size. Bigger is better. Make sure it is a Class B as it will put out flammable or combustible liquids such as gasoline, kerosene, grease and oil. The numerical rating for class B extinguishers indicates the approximate number of square feet of fire it can extinguish.
Many grills are equipped with side-burners. These are great for boiling corn and frying potatoes and corn chips. Never use water to put out a grease fire. Doing so only increases the size of the fire, and the number of stories people will tell about you for years. See rule 3.
While in use, NEVER leave your grill unattended, especially if children or drunken friends and relatives are present. Better yet, keep your kids, pets and drunks always from the grilling area altogether. Some pets, if prepared correctly can easily be cooked on the grill. Quackers, my pet duck was very tasty.
Outdoor grills are just that – for use outdoors. Never use an outdoor grill inside any part of your house or apartment. Guys, that includes your garage (or covered patio) on a rainy playoff day.
Keep your grill away from the walls of the house and from under low hanging tree branches when in use. Your insurance company will appreciate it.
Do not use your grill during periods of high wind. Ashes and burning embers will upset your neighbors when they see their landscape and eaves of the house on fire.
Position your grill in a level area, such as a patio or designated lawn space, but not in similar areas covered with a roof. This might be a challenge to those living in the hills of San Francisco, but do your best.
If you use your grill on a wooden deck, a large piece of metal or a fireproof patio/deck protector should be placed under the grill. Your new Viking 6-zone grill with side-burner and warming tray will not work nearly as well once it has fallen through your burning deck.
When using a charcoal grill, never add starter fluid to coals that are already hot. This is asking for trouble. The safe and proper way to light your charcoal is to build a mound in the center of the grill. Spray lighter fluid on the coals soaking lightly. WAIT FIVE MINUTES. This allows the lighter fluid to soak INTO the coal and provides a longer burn. Allow the coals to get complete gray with ashes. This insures you have completely burned off the lighter fluid, preventing you from having Chevron or Exxon flavored kabobs.
When lighting a gas grill equipped with automatic ignition, open the hood BEFORE turning on the valve to the tank or the individual burner valves/knobs. Put another way, the burners should not be lit when the hood is closed. The buildup of gas under the hood can ignite and cause an explosion. This is part of the Darwin selection process where only the smartest survive. Remember, Darwinian moments last a lifetime, usually counted in minutes or seconds.
Use only quality charcoal or pre-burned coal from a reputable source. Never use chemically/pressure treated wood, such as scrap lumber building project, as fuel for a fire meant for grilling; that is, unless you want to have three-headed children, or some similar mutation.
While these safety rules are written tongue and cheek, taking them seriously will provide you with safe and enjoyable cooking experiences for you, your family and friends. Until next week, live and eat well and healthy.