I love grilling season.  It’s cooking the way it’s meant to be done, with direct heat and flames kissing succulent meats, fish and poultry, as it was thousands of years ago…minus of course the metal grill and spatula.  The sounds of outdoor picnics and cooking over an open flame are music to my ears each summer.  The crackling skin of just-broken-down chickens, the flare-ups of hamburger juices as they drip onto the blazing coals, and even the clinking of ice cubes against the sides of a glass.

Grilling outdoors can be great fun.  In addition to grilling tips, I have listed a few safety tips that I deem important, as well as those of some prominent organizations.

So have tackle these tips, have a great barbecue season, and be safe.

Fire Safety

Keep in your general vicinity a bucket of sand and some baking soda for extinguishing small fires.  It’s also a good idea to keep your garden hose just a few steps away, especially if you are cooking on a wooden deck.  Always keep the cooking surface or grill at least several feet away from any objects or walls.

Food Safety

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service has put together a series of safety tips for this summers grilling season that are certainly worth a quick read.  The list covers techniques on safe food transportation, thawing, and even a blurb on cancer studies regarding charred foods, although they make no claims either way.


Poultry, Whole, Ground 165 °F

Hamburger, Beef 160 °F

Beef, Veal, Lamb:

Medium Rare 145 °F

Medium 160 °F

All Pork 160 °F

Source: USDA.gov

Use Good Wood

I like to grill with a combination of coal and wood.  Simply follow the same rules you would if you were burning wood in your fireplace at home.  Do not use pressure treated woods, painted woods, or any manufactured woods that may have been chemically treated.

Stick to natural, dry hardwoods when possible.  I try to use maple, oak if possible, or hardwoods still being sold from local homes for fireplace burning.  Fortunately I live in an area where every few streets it seems have several stacks of wood for sale each winter, with some remaining through summer for camping season.  I can pick up a large bundle of seasoned hardwood for about three dollars.

Keep a Clean Cooking Area

Be sure to use separate dishes for raw and cooked foods.  As soon as the raw food is on the grill, bring the dishes to a cleaning area and douse with hot, soapy water.  Cross-contamination is a huge risk, especially when outdoors in the heat and sun.

Lubricate the Cooking Surface

First of all, “Grease” is something you use on your car.  Oil or fat is what’s used to lubricate cooking surfaces to prevent food from sticking.  If your grilling surface is free from debris and any cooked on foods from the last use, then a small towel with a little oil on it should suffice to rub the grates.  Try not to use paper towels when the grates are hot.  Just a quick rub right before placing the meats on the grill will be enough to keep even the leanest of meats from sticking as long as the grates are hot.

Season Later

It’s best to season your meats just minutes before they are finished.  Salt pulls moisture from foods early in the cooking process, so keep those juices in and salt when done.  Marinades and rubs should be tapped against a bowl to remove anything that might drip when placing on the grill to avoid flare-ups.  Be sure to mob, baste, or brush sauces later in the cooking process.  When used early, charring can occur, and your grates can get gummed up slowing cooking time and causing foods to stick.

Additional Information

If you’re looking for additional information on barbecuing from the professionals, here are some additional sources you may want to consider.

Paul Kirk: The Undisputed Barbecue Champion

Easily the best Barbecue book I have read, this collection of Paul Kirk’s 575 Championship Recipes book is full of tips and ideas for pulling off the most successful Barbecue ever.


The Smoke Ring is a list of over 1,000 member barbecue sites with all you ever need to know about barbecue.  From recipes and products, to sauces, rubs, and professional barbecue instruction.


Another site of all-things-barbecue, BBQ-Festivals.com offers a calendar list of barbecue festivals around the United States.

National Barbecue Organization