Backyard grilling goes hand in hand with longer days and warmer weather. Grilling is a relaxing way to prepare dinner in the evening or you can turn your cookout into an all-day event. No matter what the occasion, there are a few things you should do to prepare for cooking out. Here are four essential grilling safety tips for outdoor cooking.

1. Clean The Grill

If your grill has been unused all winter, thoroughly clean it before your first cookout. Wipe the outside down and then hose it off. Open the grill, make sure no creatures have nested inside, and use a Shop-Vac to clean the interior. If you do not have a Shop-Vac, use a whisk broom to sweep out any large pieces and a damp rag to scrub away any remaining bits.

Next, light up a batch of briquettes or ignite the burners and once the grill is hot, scrub the grates with a wire brush. Hardware stores sell wide wire brushes specifically made for cleaning grills. They have long handles and are heat resistant.

If the grates are still grimy after scraping, let them cool completely then soak them in warm water and dish soap; a five-gallon bucket works well for this process. The solution will loosen stuck-on particles. It might take a few hours or even overnight. After soaking, scrub the grates again and hose them off.

2. Grilling Safety Tips: Preparing Your Surroundings

The area surrounding the grill needs to be free of flammable materials and allow for ease of movement. Do not use the grill against the house or any other outside structures. The heat may scorch or ignite the side of the building.

Sweep or hose off the surface beneath the grill and put down a grilling mat. The mat will protect the surface from hot grease splatters. Trim any branches that are hanging over the grilling space. Before each cooking session, remove any dry leaves or twigs from your cooking area.

3. Have a Fire Extinguisher Ready

In the event of an emergency, be ready to act quickly. Place a fire extinguisher nearby. Purchase a multi-use device or one that is specific to grease fires, and learn how to use it for grilling safety. Keep the grill clean to reduce the amount of grease and food particles that can ignite. It doesn’t matter whether you are using a traditional briquette BBQ or a propane one, both types can cause an accidental fire if misused.

4. Grilling Safety Tips and Food

Once you have properly prepped the grill and surrounding area, it is time for cooking. As important as it is to store food at the right temperature, it is equally vital to cook it to the proper temperature. Use a meat thermometer to ensure the interior of steaks, hamburgers, and chicken have been cooked to a safe temperature.

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