Earlier this week, several news sources reported that a 27-year old woman on the NSW central coast suffered severe burns to her face, torso and arms following a barbecuing accident. She was airlifted to Royal North Shore Hospital and fortunately is in a stable condition.
Photo credit: Anita Ritenour
It remains unclear whether the injuries were the result of a flare-up, or if the BBQ’s gas bottle exploded. In any case, I hate hearing about BBQ-related injuries, so I’m going to address both issues.
Flare-ups are the burst of intense flames caused by oil and fat dripping from your food onto the fire or coals below. For the most part they are small in size and a normal part of barbecuing. In fact, many people believe they actually enhance the flavour of the food.
Occasionally, however, flare-ups get out of control and pose a serious risk to the BBQ chef. Here are a few tips for ensuring your flare-ups remain small and manageable:
- Keep your BBQ clean: Clean your BBQ of any grease and fat before and after every cook up. Note that it is much easier to do this while the BBQ is still hot. For more tips on keeping your BBQ clean, click here.
- That includes the drip tray: The drip tray, where all of the excess fat and oil gather, is an often-neglected part of BBQ maintenance. Learn how to maintain your drip tray here.
- Trim excess fat: The less fat that is on your meat, the less will drip onto the flames. In saying that, some fat is essential for flavour and moisture, so trim with moderation.
- That includes added fat: Avoid over-marinating or over-oiling foods, as this will decrease the risk of flare-ups.
- Keep a cool zone: If flare-ups do occur, ensure you have a flame-free part of the BBQ where you can put the meat while the flare-ups subside.
- Keep an eye on it: If you’re cooking foods that are susceptible to flaring up, keep an eye on them. Then if a flare-up does occur, you can get them out of there while things settle down.
- Keep a flammable-free safe zone: Ensure you have an adequate “safety zone” around the BBQ where there are no flammable items that could catch fire from a flare-up.
- Use long-handled tools: Ensure all of your BBQ tools have long handles, so that you can avoid placing your forearms, body and head directly over the BBQ.
- Don’t spray with water: Water and grease fires do not mix. All spraying with water does is make the hot, burning grease explode all over you and your food.
- Have a fire extinguisher ready: You’ll probably never have to use it, but it’s a small investment for what could potentially save your house and your life.
There is a chance that the “flare-ups” the media reports referred to were caused by excess BBQ fuel. If you’ve released an excess amount of gas while attempting to light your BBQ, allow the gas to dissipate into the atmosphere before trying to light again. If cooking with charcoal and using highly flammable chemicals to get things going (lighter fluid for example), use them in moderation and always apply only a very small amount to start with. Oh and when lighting, stand back!
Gas Bottle Explosions
LPG gas bottle explosions are rare, but they do happen. It is important that you transport, store, use and maintain your gas bottles correctly to avoid any accidents. Check out some simple tips on how to play it safe with LPG here.
All BBQs send their best wishes to the injured woman and hope for a speedy recovery.
Safe barbecuing everyone!