No matter how skilled you are at grilling, flare-ups happen from time to time. Even though the sight of sky-high flames shooting out of your grill can be terrifying, you can get a grip on them. Learning to extinguish flare-ups quickly and preventing them from reoccurring makes grilling more fun and leads to better tasting meat.
What Causes Flare Ups?
Excessive flames are caused by a variety of reasons, but typically occur when meat juice drips down into the gas flame or the charcoal. These juices contain high levels of fat and continue to burn much like a candle. Other causes of flare-ups include windy conditions or using wooden skewers without soaking them.
Minor Flame Mishaps
If the flames are concentrated on one side of the grill, use long-handled tongs and a fireproof oven mitt to move the food to the other side. Afterward, watch the flame carefully until it burns out.
If there are windy conditions, or you can’t move the food, more extreme measures are required. First, close the grill cover to prevent oxygen from getting to the flames. If you are cooking with charcoal, close the top and bottom air vents as well. Stand back at a safe distance and look through the holes near the bottom or the rear of the grill. Once the flames die down, open the cover and resume grilling. If you using a gas grill, turn off the gas after you close the lid. Once the flames die out, open the lid for five minutes to allow the gas to dissipate. It is then safe to relight the grill.
Stopping Serious Flames
If the fire is seriously out of control, dump salt or baking soda onto the flames to smother them. It’s also a good idea to have a fire extinguisher nearby just in case things really get out of hand.
Don’t attempt to put out the flames using water, as it doesn’t mix with grease. When water hits the grease it actually splashes it in more directions rather than diluting it. No matter what you have heard from others, water and flare ups don’t mix.
Preventing Future Flare Ups
Preventing flare-ups is easily accomplished by following proper food preparation. Trim off most of the fat from your meat before you put in on the grill. If you marinated meat or veggies, place them on a baking sheet and allow them to drain well before placing them onto the grill grates. This prevents the marinade from dripping down and causing a flare-up. When cooking food on wooden skewers, soak them in water for 20 to 30 minutes before you put food on them. Dry wooden skewers are really nothing more than kindling, so don’t be surprised when they go up in flames.