Barbecues come in numerous types of design and can cost anything from a couple of pounds right up to several hundred. The cheapest are the disposable kits made out of a foil grille containing a few pieces of charcoal which are ideal if you’re simply going on a picnic and want to rustle up a couple of burgers or sausages. Then there are the metal drum or similar charcoal models and others which run off calor gas.
Whichever type you choose you’ll need to take safety precautions seriously. Choosing your barbecue isn’t simply a matter of how you prefer to cook outdoors, you’ll need to ensure that your barbecue will be sturdy on the surface where you intend to cook on it. Some of the cheaper models can be quite unstable so, it’s always better to see a barbecue fully set up and standing as opposed to simply buying it out of a box unseen. It’s also safer if you buy one which has a fat collecting tray as fat dripping can also present a fire risk.
Positioning Your Barbecue
Before you even light your barbecue, it’s important that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions when you’re putting it together, making sure that the site is level and that it can’t be knocked over. You should also ensure that the barbecue is sturdy and situated well away from any trees, sheds, fences, bushes and tents and don’t place it in a position where you would have to squeeze past it.
Clothing and Tools
There’s likely to be fat spurting now and again when you’re cooking things like burgers and sausages in particular so wear old clothing which you don’t mind getting fat stains all over and make sure your clothes are not too loose fitting or you could be at risk of them blowing into the flames if it’s a windy day. Make sure you have an oven mitt at hand to avoid fat spurts or a sudden jet of flame as fat drips onto the coals burning your hands as you’re working close to the barbecue and use the correct tools to put things onto your barbecue and to take things off it.
Lighting Your Barbecue
Whether you’re using slow burning charcoal, briquettes or the easily lit charcoal which you light in its bag, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and if that includes using fluids such as lighter fuel, always put the cap back on and keep it both away from the barbecue and out of the reach of children. In fact, children should be kept away from the barbecue area at all times and, whether there are children present or not, you should never leave a barbecue unattended. Never use fuels which are not recommended for lighting a barbecue and don’t throw petrol or spray aerosols onto it. Also, instruct your children not to play or run near the barbecue area. Make sure that any matches and other combustible materials are kept well away from the cooking area once the barbecue is alight.
Should the flames get out of hand for any reason, keep a bucket of water or sand close by which you can use to douse the flames.
Disposing Of Coals
Once you have finished your barbecue, put the lid back on your barbecue and let the coals go cold before you attempt to dispose of them. Some people will leave the barbecue to cool down overnight and dispose of the coals the following day but if you’re unsure as to the safety of that – perhaps, you’ve got children who may be continuing to play in the garden after the barbecue is over, pour sand or water onto the remaining coals and then check to see that the flames are out and that the coals are cold to the touch. Once you’re certain that the coals are cold, leave them in the barbecue overnight and then you can then dispose of them in your bin the following day.
The same general principles to safety apply to gas barbecues as well but, in addition, there are additional precautions to be taken. Make sure that the tap is fully turned off before changing the gas cylinder and only change it outside in the open air. When you’ve finished cooking, make sure that you turn off the gas cylinders themselves before turning the barbecue’s cooking controls off. If you suspect that the cylinder or the connecting pipes may be leaking, put soapy water around all of the connecting points and keep an eye out for bubbles as they’d be a sign of leakage. Correct storage of cylinders is equally important. Never store them inside your house but in a shed or garage and keep them away from direct sunlight and protected against frost. Don’t store an excess of cylinders either – just buy the amount you’ll need at any one time.
By taking safety precautions and using your common sense, a barbecue is a fun way to spend time outdoors and nothing quite beats the aroma and taste of food which has been barbecued. However, should a barbecue get out of hand and a fire results which seems impossible to contain, do not hesitate to call the fire brigade.