Each year Fire Departments respond to an estimated 6,500 grill fires, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. More than 70 percent of grill fires occur in residential areas, so check the National Fire Protection Association's web site, http://www.nfpa.org, for smart fire safety tips. Then read some more useful tips and brush up on your grilling knowledge below. Read "Grab the tongs -- it's grill time!" on p. 127 of the June issue of ALL YOU magazine for three great, inexpensive grills.
Pick the right area. Position your grill in an open area away from your house, garage, balcony and trees.
Protect your children. Create a "no-go" area at least three feet around the grill and don'’t let children approach it.
Tend to your grill at all times. If you have to step away, assign another adult to check on your food.
Keep extinguishers nearby. Have a fire extinguisher, a garden hose and a bucket of sand close at hand in case a fire gets out of control.
Take care when using lighter fluid. Add charcoal lighter fluid when coals are dry, never when they're ignited. Apply lighter fluid and then wait a minute before lighting -- this reduces the concentration of harmful vapors you'd otherwise inhale. Always wear an insulated barbecue mitt when lighting coals.
Avoid flare-ups. Trim fat on your meat so the fatty juice doesn't cause too many sudden flames.
Soak kebab skewers. Before placing wooden skewers on the grill, soak them in water for 20 to 30 minutes to keep them from burning.
Finish up grilling, the right way. When you're done grilling, it's best to close the hood on the grill and close the dampers to smother the coals. If it's a gas grill, be sure to turn off the gas at the tank and at the burners.
Q: What's the difference between grilling and barbecuing?
A: Grilling is cooking food directly over a very hot fire, while barbecuing is the slow, indirect cooking of meat over a low, smoky fire.
Q: How will I know when my grill is ready for cooking?
A: There's a simple way to tell when it's time to start cooking. Hold the palm of your hand six inches over the heat. Count "one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three." If you have to pull it away after three seconds (i.e. one thousand three) then the temperature is just right for cooking as it's about 350°F to 375°F. You can also tell if a charcoal grill is ready when 80 percent of the coals have turned ash gray.
Did you know?
The word "barbecue" comes from the Haitian word "barbacoa," which refers to a raised, wooden framework used for either sleeping or curing meats. Spaniards visited the Caribbean and then spread the word to Europe.
GET THE MOST OUT OF GRILLED FOOD
Make up tasty marinades to flavor your meats and fish.
Never reuse leftover marinades in which raw fish or meat has been sitting.
Always cover and refrigerate marinated food until you're ready to cook. Then bring the food almost to room temperature just before grilling so it'll cook more evenly."
For meats: Try balsamic vinegar, freshly squeezed orange juice or wine mixed with ingredients like shallots or onions, mustard, garlic, ginger, rosemary and pepper.
For fish: Rub fish with oil and garlic paste before grilling. Serve with wedges of lemon or lime to add a zesty flavor.